US military chiefs committed to ending gay ban

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US military chiefs say they are making smooth progress towards lifting the ban on openly gay troops.

During a House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday, the leaders of the Navy, Army and Air Force and Marines said troops did not appear anxious about the change.

Before President Obama signed an order to repeal the 17-year-old ban, there was concern that the Marines in particular would react badly to serving alongside out gay colleagues.

General James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, had previously claimed that allowing out gay troops could cause a dangerous distraction.

But yesterday he testified: “We’ve not seen issues. There’s not been anxiety over it from the forces in the field … there hasn’t been pushback.”

The ban will not be lifted until military chiefs have certified that repealing the law will not harm military readiness. Following this, 60 days must pass.

Troops are currently undergoing training to adapt to the change and it is expected that gay soldiers will be permitted to come out at some point during the summer.

General Norton Schwartz, the Air Force’s chief of staff, said he was “more comfortable” about lifting the ban than he was in December.

Navy Admiral Gary Roughead said: “Repeal will not change who we are or what we do. The same regulations and standards of conduct will apply.”

Speaking to reporters in Iraq yesterday, defence secretary Robert Gates said that training would reinforce messages of equal treatment and respect.

When asked what troops could expect after repeal, he said: “My guess is you won’t see much change at all.”

Yesterday’s hearing in the Republican-controlled House was seen as an attempt to stall repeal. However, it backfired when military chiefs said their concerns were receding.

One Republican representative urged the joint chiefs not to allow out gay troops.

Missouri politician Vicky Hartzler said: “You can stop this still. In your gut you know this is not the right thing.”