US Army chief looks to practicalities of out gays in the military

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The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff has “begun to think about” the changes to the US military if openly gay and lesbian people are allowed to serve.

Admiral Mike Mullen has indicated that the current ban, known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, is likely to be repealed.

If army personnel are discovered to be LGB then they are sacked, but commanding officers are not allowed to ask  about their sexual orientation.

“The President-elect’s been pretty clear that he wants to address this issue,” Admiral Mullen said an interview about his meeting with President-elect Barack Obama in Chicago last month.

“I am certainly mindful that at some point in time it could come.”

The New York Times reports:

“A friend of Admiral Mullen said the admiral had begun to think about practical implications like housing, but Admiral Mullen said there had been no formal planning or task forces on the issue.”

In May Admiral Mullen said that Congress is responsible for the ban on openly lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans from military service.

Speaking to graduating cadets at West Point military academy, Admiral Mike Mullen said that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a law that the Armed Forces follow.

“Should the law change, the military will carry that out too,” he said.

President-elect Barack Obama backs repeal.

A statement on civil rights posted on the Presidential transition website states:

“Barack Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

“The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve.

“Discrimination should be prohibited. The US government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation.

“Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic.

“Obama will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defence goals.”

A spokesperson for the President-elect said last month that no decisions had been made about the strategy or timing of an attempt to end the ban.

The Washington Post reported that it could be as late as 2010.

Congressman Barney Frank, who is gay, has said he thinks there will not be an attempt to overturn the ban until after US troops have pulled out of Iraq.

It is likely that the US military will look to the UK’s experience of opening up the Armed Forces to openly gay, bisexual and lesbian people as it moves to repeal DADT.

Aaron Belkin, director of the Michael D Palm Centre at the University of California and an expert on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, told

“The UK is by far and away the most respected military in the world when it comes to the mindset of the Pentagon.

“In fact, when we last had this debate in 1992/93 one of the reasons that people gave why the US couldn’t lift its ban was that Britain had a ban at that time.

“I know in personal conversations with very respected military leaders that they see British experiences as precedent setting and that the incredible progress over here, has already changed a lot of their minds.

“The question is not just about seeing the precedent and changing minds but figuring out how to lift the ban, once the political trigger is pulled.

“So once that moment arrives the British experiences will need to be studied in greater depth, to get a road map.”

The Dutch lifted their ban on gays in 1974, Australia followed in 1992 and Canada soon after.

In 2008, most of the member nations of NATO have removed their bans.

In the UK the Armed Forces have been open to lesbian, gay and bisexual people since 2000.

The British Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force are members of the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme, a good practice forum where employers work with Stonewall and each other, to promote lesbian, gay and bisexual equality in the workplace.