Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday he is open to repeal of the
military's ban on open gay service.
Mullen, speaking on ABC's This Week
with George Stephanopoulos, said military forces were stretched
thin challenged by two wars and he would need time to study the
impact of repeal.
“[Y]ou know, I would need some time
for a force that's under a great deal of stress – we're in our
sixth year of fighting two wars – to look at if this change occurs,
to look at implementing it in a very deliberate, measured way.”
Congress enacted “don't ask, don't
tell” – the law that prescribes discharge for gay and lesbian
service members that do not remain celibate or in the closet – in
1993; a compromise of sorts negotiated by President Clinton who
sought to lift a ban on gay and lesbians.
Mullen signaled that the Pentagon has
no plans to deviate from current law.
“The president has made his strategic
intent very clear, that it's his intent at some point in time to ask
Congress to change this law,” Mullen said. “I think it's
important to also know that this is the law, this isn't a policy.
And for the rules to change, a law has to be changed.”
But Mullen also appeared supportive of
repeal. When Stephanopoulos asked, “So it sounds like if the
Congress calls you up to testify in this, you're going to say now is
not the time to repeal?” Mullen answered: “No, I actually –
I'm going to talk to the process that we have in this country, which
is we follow the law, and if the law changes, we'll comply. There's
absolutely no question about that.”
The Pentagon and White House have
offered conflicting statements on the current state of repeal.
Last week, White House Spokesman Robert
Gibbs insisted that the policy is under review and repeal is being
actively discussed, while Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell told
reporters that repeal was not being actively pursued.
“I do not believe there are any plans
under way in this building for some expected, but not articulated,
anticipation that 'don't ask, don't tell' will be repealed,”
President Obama pledged during the
campaign that he would repeal the ban, but has remained mostly silent
on the issue since taking office. Gibbs said Obama is looking for a
“durable” solution based on Congressional action.
But opponents of the law say Obama
could act on his own. They say, Obama could end the discharges of
gay and lesbian service members by issuing an executive order or by
cutting necessary funding to “don't ask, don't tell.”