Arizona Senator John McCain on Thursday
rejected the advice of top military leaders who have endorsed repeal
of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”
The highest-ranking Republican on the
Senate Armed Services Committee remained committed during a Senate
hearing to the law that bans gay and bisexual troops from serving
McCain cited a Pentagon survey which
found that 58 percent of Marines in combat units and 48 percent of
Army combat troops thought allowing open gay service would have
either a negative or a very negative impact on their unit's
“I remain concerned, as I have in the
past, and as demonstrated in this study, that the closer we get to
service members in combat, the more we encounter concerns about
whether 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' should be repealed,” he said.
“These views should not be considered lightly especially
considering how much combat our forces face.”
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who
has previously urged Congress to end the ban, replied that combat
soldiers have limited experience in the military.
“With time and adequate preparation,
we can mitigate their concerns,” Gates said.
earlier this week joined Senate Republicans in threatening to block
any legislation until the Bush-era tax cuts are dealt with,
replied that he “couldn't disagree more.”
“We send these young people into
combat, we think they're mature enough to fight and die. I think
they're mature enough to make a judgment on who they want to serve
with and the impact on their battle effectiveness.”
McCain insisted that the report was
flawed because it had not asked troops if the law should be repealed,
question Gates has previously rejected.
Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also shook off concerns about serving
alongside openly gay troops.
“I've been serving with gays and
lesbians my whole career. I went to war with them aboard a destroyer
off the coast of Vietnam. I knew they were there. They knew I knew
it. We never missed a mission, never failed to deliver ordnance on
Mullen added that the military would
cope with service members who disagree with repeal.
“Should repeal occur, some soldiers
and Marines may want separate showers facilities … Some may even
quit the service. We'll deal with that.”
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of
the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the largest group
lobbying for repeal of the 17-year-old law, said McCain had grown
“out of touch” with top military leaders.
“As witnessed in today's hearing,
McCain is growing more and more out of touch with the military's top
leadership as well as a majority of the force. It is now painfully
transparent that for McCain, it's all politics,” Sarvis said.
Committee members will hear from
military service chiefs on Friday.