Outraged pro-gay groups are busy writing press releases, posting blog entries, and encouraging a letter writing campaign to President George W. Bush over his decision to award former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace a Presidential Medal of Freedom. The groups say homophobic remarks made before his departure leave him undeserving of one of our country's highest honors.

When asked if “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” - the military's policy of barring gays and lesbians from serving openly – was outdated, Pace answered he didn't believe so. “From that standpoint,” he said, “saying gays should serve openly in the military, to me, says that, by policy, we'd be condoning what I believe to be immoral activity.” Pace made his remarks in a March 2007 interview with the Chicago Tribune.

Pro-gay group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) called honoring Pace “unacceptable.” While Aubrey Sarvis, Executive Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a group dedicated to ending GLBT discrimination in the military, said in a prepared statement, “Honoring General Pace with the country's highest civilian award is outrageous, insensitive and disrespectful to the 65,000 lesbian and gay troops currently serving on active duty in the Armed Forces.”

At the demand of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Pace released a statement saying that he regretted expressing his personal views on morality, but has never apologized for his remarks.

Several weeks after his comments, Gates announced that he would advise President Bush not to renominate Pace for a second term. Gates said the decision was not based on performance, but rather concerns over a difficult Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation stemming from his role in the early mismanagement of the Iraq war.

In testimony before the Senate Appropriations committee in the fall of 2007, Pace explained his remarks, “[W]e should respect those who want to serve the nation but not through the law of the land, condone activity, in my upbringing, is counter to God's law... All I'm saying is that in my responsibility – with the authority I've been given and responsibilities I've been given – are to obey the law of the land and to object if something is either illegal or immoral.”

In an email to On Top Magazine, Steve Ralls, PFLAG Director of Communications, lamented Bush's decision by saying, “When mothers and fathers send their sons and daughters off to serve, they expect them to be led by someone who respects their skills and honors their commitment to our country. General Pace, instead, disregarded the enormous sacrifice that gay Americans have made in our Armed Forces and used his personal prejudice to prop-up an unnecessary and counter-productive law... President Bush should find a more suitable honoree.”

“Our men and women in uniform are making tremendous sacrifices for our country and are looking for the President to recognize leaders who offer them praise and vision, not condemnation and scorn,” said Aubrey Sarvis.

General Pace is to be honored in a presentation ceremony to be held June 19th at the White House. President Bush is the sole decision maker for a medal that does not require congressional approval.

On the net: National PFLAG can be found at www.pflag.org. The SLDN website is at www.sldn.org