'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal faces long odds

WASHINGTON: Despite professed optimism by the main advocacy group supporting newly introduced legislation to repeal the US military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on openly gay service members, military experts said the legislation has little chance of becoming law.

WASHINGTON: Despite professed optimism by the main advocacy group supporting newly introduced legislation to repeal the US military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on openly gay service members, military experts said the legislation has little chance of becoming law.

At a February 28 press conference featuring the nonprofit Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA) reintroduced the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, first introduced during the 109th Congress, that would repeal the ban on gay, lesbian, and bisexual military personnel. When first introduced, the bill gained a total of 122 co-sponsors, but didn't make it past the House Armed Services Committee.

To foster support for the legislation, SLDN is working with advocacy groups such as People for the American Way, Human Rights Campaign, and the Log Cabin Republicans on a planned "Lobby Day" on Capitol Hill on March 26, said SLDN communications director Steve Ralls.

Efforts will also include media outreach focusing on military titles such as Stars and Stripes and Army Times, as well as major military media markets like San Diego and San Antonio.

But while the military has for decades had thousands of gay service members, Dr. Loren Thompson, COO of the nonpartisan Lexington Institute think tank, said the Department of Defense's hidebound conservative culture means any effort to permit more open behavior will likely fail.

The Pentagon didn't respond to requests for comment by press time, but Thompson said he recently asked the secretary of the Army whether he'd reconsider the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. He said he was told no because the military didn't want to "stir up a hornet's nest" in Congress, the military, or the public.

Hoover Institution senior fellow Thomas Henriksen noted that service members may regularly be dismissed for homosexuality, but the military also frequently discharges adulterers.

"I think the military thinks that if it has this policy then it at least keeps everyone's head down, so to speak, so that they won't 'flaunt' it," he said.

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