Australian ABC News: US Congress vote allows gays in military
US Congress vote allows gays in military
MARK COLVIN: The US military doesn’t officially allow gay people to serve.
Instead they run an unofficial policy known as ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ for gay and lesbian service people.
But now the United States Congress is on the verge of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
It was a major election promise of the President Barack Obama.
But opponents of the change accuse President Obama of destabilising the military for the sake of a liberal social agenda.
Michael Edwards has this report.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: At the moment, the United States military takes a harsh line on homosexuals within its ranks.
If they admit to being or are discovered to be gay, they are dismissed from service.
It’s called the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ law. But in what is being seen a big victory for homosexual rights the United States House of Representatives has voted to repeal the law.
Democratic representative Patrick Murphy was the chief sponsor of the amendment.
PATRICK MURPHY: When I served in Baghdad, my team did not care whether a fellow soldier was straight or gay. We cared if they could fire their M4 assault rifle, or run a convoy down ambush alley. Could they do their job, so that everybody in our unit would come home safely?
With our military fighting two wars, why on earth will we tell over 13,500 able body Americans that their services are not needed?
This policy hurts our national security and it has cost the American taxpayer over $US1.3 billion already on this unjust policy.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: It’s estimated that 60,000 homosexual men and women serve in the United States military.
‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ was introduced during Bill Clinton’s presidency but President Obama made a campaign pledge to get rid of it.
Chris Neff is from the Palm Centre at the University of California a think tank which monitors the impact of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’.
He describes the vote as a massive step forward for both homosexual rights and the US military.
CHRIS NEFF: It makes a huge difference. Not needing to lie everyday as a condition of service and adding that additional pressure to you if you’re being deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan; you know and being able to write a note to you loved one.
Under the previous policy, if you wrote a note to a loved one from Afghanistan, that could be a cause for discharge. Now, you’ll be protected and you’ll have support mechanisms from the military.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: But the battle isn’t completely over. It has yet to pass the United States Senate and there’s still significant opposition to the repeal among the military’s senior commanders.
Republicans accuse President Obama of using the law to ram through a liberal social agenda at the expense of the United States military. They want Congress to wait until a Pentagon study into the effects of repealing the law is completed.
Chris Neff says there’s long-standing resistance to having openly gay people in the military. But he says most active service men and women have no problem serving with homosexuals.
CHRIS NEFF: Seventy five per cent of US service members when they were surveyed, said they already knew or suspected someone who was gay in their unit and it wasn’t a problem for them.
So we already know that gays are serving and they’re serving openly in units; the difference is that now, they don’t have to worry about losing their job for it.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: The Senate is presently debating the bill.
MARK COLVIN: Michael Edwards.