Former General Backs Gay Policy Change
Tuesday January 2, 2007
The AP reported that:
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Army general who was Joint Chiefs chairman when the Pentagon adopted its ``don't ask, don't tell'' policy on gays says he no longer opposes allowing them to serve openly.
John Shalikashvili, who retired in 1997 after four years as the nation's top military officer, had argued that allowing homosexuals to serve openly would hurt troop morale and recruitment and undermine the cohesion of combat units. He said he has changed his mind after meeting with gay servicemen.
``These conversations showed me just how much the military has changed, and that gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers,'' Shalikashvili wrote in an opinion piece in Tuesday's New York Times.
His view could carry weight at a time when advocates of lifting the restriction on gay service members argue that the military - under the strain of fighting two wars - can ill-afford to exclude any qualified volunteers.
It's not clear, however, how much enthusiasm Congress will have for pressing the matter. While many Democrats have denounced the policy as discriminatory, many Republicans have supported it, and members may be reluctant to revisit such a divisive issue. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a possible presidential contender in 2008, recently called the military policy ``very effective.''
Rep. Marty Meehan on Tuesday hailed Shalikashvili's article and said he would try this year to revive legislation forcing the military to eliminate the policy. In 2005, Meehan, D-Mass., introduced a similar bill, which eventually attracted 122 co-sponsors, including Republican Chris Shays of Connecticut and Independent Bernard Sanders of Vermont.
``There is no place in this country for discrimination, be it on the basis of race, creed or sexual orientation, and there is certainly no place for institutional discrimination codified in federal statute,'' Meehan said in a statement.
The current policy, based on legislation passed by Congress in 1993 after a firestorm of debate, states that gays and lesbians may serve in the military only if they keep their sexual orientation private. Commanders may not ask, and gay service members may not tell. Over the years thousands have been dismissed under this policy.
Shalikashvili is not the first former senior military officer to change his mind about gays in the military, though he is perhaps the most prominent. John Hutson, a retired two-star Navy admiral who was the Navy's top lawyer, said Tuesday he thinks the nation has undergone so much cultural change over the past decade that allowing gays to serve openly in the military would enhance rather than weaken the cohesion of fighting units.
The complete article may be found here: