Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gen. Pace regrets comments about gay acts being 'immoral' but doesn't apologize

The Chicago Tribune reported today that:

WASHINGTON -- Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed mild regret Tuesday for voicing his belief that homosexual acts are "immoral," but he stopped short of an apology as gay rights groups and a powerful Republican senator rebuked the general for the comments he made to the Chicago Tribune.

As critics fired rhetorical volleys, Pace issued a statement expressing regret that he had put so much stress on the morality issue when he defended the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gays serving openly in the military during a Monday interview with the Tribune's editorial board.

"In expressing my support for the current policy, I also offered some personal opinions about moral conduct," Pace said in his statement. "I should have focused more on my support of the policy and less on my personal moral views."

But this statement did not mollify critics who called the general's statements insensitive and outrageous and said he should apologize.

Pace's statements in the interview turned into a huge news story on radio, television and the Internet during the day and showed how sensitive the Pentagon's policy has become. His senior staff members said he was expressing personal views and did not intend to apologize.

Still, the reaction provided a strong hint that Congress may hold hearings this year on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy approved during the Clinton administration, which allows gays to serve in the military as long as they do not disclose their sexual orientation. That clue came when Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, took issue with the general.

"I respectfully but strongly disagree with the chairman's view that homosexuality is immoral," the senator said. "In keeping with my longstanding respect for the Armed Services Committee hearing process, I will decline to comment on the current policy until after such hearings are held."

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the committee who has the right to call hearings, had no comment on Pace's remarks. When a spokeswoman was asked if hearings on "don't ask, don't tell" may be held, she said, "They've not made any decision about that."

Repeal of the ban on gays who acknowledge their sexual orientation and serve in the military would be highly controversial. Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John Edwards (D-N.C.) favor repeal while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and other GOP contenders would maintain the policy.

An Obama spokeswoman said the senator agrees with Gen. John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Clinton administration, who wrote recently that he favors the repeal because the military is having a tough time recruiting and training troops.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is seeking the presidency, called Pace's comments unfortunate and said the administration should reject them.

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), also a presidential contender, said, "General Pace's comments were completely out of line. Many gay and lesbian members of our military have served their country honorably over the years and I find it outrageous that at a time when we need as many good people serving in the military as possible, we are still talking about excluding people based on their sexual orientation."

Legislation to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy has been introduced in the House by Rep. Martin Meehan (D-Mass.), and it has more than 100 co-sponsors. Meehan said Tuesday that Pace's comments are not in line with those of a majority of the public or the military, and that sentiment for repeal "is strong and growing," according to the Associated Press.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group that has represented those dismissed from the military for being gay, said, "Gen. Pace's comments are outrageous, insensitive and disrespectful to the 65,000 lesbian and gay troops now serving in our armed forces."

Eric Alva, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights group supporting gay rights, said, "This policy—and Gen. Pace's bigotry—is outdated, unnecessary and counter to the same American values our soldiers are giving their lives for each and every day."

In the interview with the Tribune, Pace said his views were based on his personal upbringing.

"I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts," Pace told the Tribune editorial board. "I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.

"As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behavior] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else's wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not," he said. "We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior."

While his senior staff made clear Tuesday that he would not apologize for these remarks, the general issued his statement in an effort to play them down and declare that he should have dealt with policy and not his personal opinion.

The complete story may be found here:


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