Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mullen advised President Obama to move in a measured way on overturning the military's gay ban

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday that he has advised President Barack Obama to move "in a measured way" in changing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bans gays from serving openly in the military.

"It's very clear what President Obama's intent here is. He intends to see this law change," Adm. Mike Mullen said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"I've had conversations with him about that. What I've discussed in terms of the future is I think we need to move in a measured way. We're at a time when we're fighting two conflicts. There's a great deal of pressure on our forces."

His comments are the most recent indication that talks about the policy change are taking place between President Barack Obama and military leadership. Earlier last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that he has lawyers studying ways the law might be selectively enforced as part of an effort to find "a more humane way" to apply the law until it is changed.

"Secretary Gates spoke recently about reviewing the policy to make sure that we were executing it in the most humane way possible," Mullen said of the Defense secretary's statement.

"The strategic intent is clear," Mullen repeated. "I am internally discussing this with my staff -- on how to go forward, and what the possible implementation steps could be. I haven't done any kind of extensive review. And what I feel most obligated about is to make sure I tell the president, you know, my - give the president my best advice, should this law change, on the impact on our people and their families at these very challenging times."

Colin Powell, who previously held the same position, on the same program said that the time has come for the 16-year-old policy to be reviewed.

Obama as a candidate pledged to end the ban. As president, he has not said when or how he will take steps to do so, drawing criticism from gay rights activists and others. The president has pointed out that Congress in 1993 made into law a policy begun by President Bill Clinton.

Mullen's remarks outraged many LGBT advocates, including former adviser to President Bill Clinton, Richard Socarides.

"Mullen's comments are offensive and insulting. It's shocking that the civilian leadership allows him to talk about a group of Americans as if we were second-class citizens," Socarides was quoted as saying on Americablog.

"How can you advocate a measured approach to equality? Deliberate is what I'm looking for. Deliberate is what we were promised. And his comments about 'the impact [of a policy change] on our people and their families' is outrageous. What about the impact of the current policy on gay service members? Are they not 'his people.' Not to mention the chilling effect official, government-sanctioned discrimination has on all of us as Americans."

"This is one of the most senior leaders of our government talking about us as if we were second class citizens. It has got to stop.

Sixteen years ago Sam Nunn and Colin Powell did this to us and no one called them on it. And we ended up with this policy. Now we must speak up. These are not legitimate opposing views. He, Mullen, is not expressing an American view of equality. And, shockingly, one of his main jobs is to articulate the policy views of his boss, the president. "

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