In a letter obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen asked that the House Armed Services Committee refrain from overturning the military’s ban on openly gay and lesbian service members until the Pentagon is able to complete its year-long assessment of the policy.
"Our military must be afforded the opportunity to inform us of their concerns, insights and suggestions if we are to carry out this change successfully," wrote Gates and Mullen.
If Congress were to act before the study is complete, Gates and Mullen warned that “it would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns and perspectives do not matter."
In February, Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael G. Mullen told Congress that he personally supported lifting the ban on openly gay men and lesbians serving in the United States armed forces:
“No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”
Despite that support, Mullen believes service members should be surveyed to determine how lifting the ban should be done.
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) told The Advocate on Monday that he was “blindsided by the letter.”
“The fact is, there have been 13,500 American soldiers who were willing to take a bullet for our country to keep us safe, and they were ripped out of their units and then thrown out of our military just because they happened to be gay,” Rep. Murphy went on to say. “And we need to stand up for national security and the American taxpayers that see that we’re wasting $1.3 billion of their tax money to enforce this policy, and change this once and for all.”
In a statement released on Friday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to Gates and Mullen's letter and advised that “the Administration should immediately place a moratorium on dismissals under this policy until the review has been completed and Congress has acted.”
Army veteran and Executive Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Aubrey Sarvis, reacted to the move by Gates and Mullen in a strongly worded statement released on Saturday:
“In his State of the Union message President Obama said repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was the right thing to do. But Friday evening President Obama did the wrong thing, and in doing so he and Secretary Gates delivered a devastating blow to getting repeal done this year. Their joint political decision showed a lack of respect for our LGBT service members who are on the frontlines every day risking their lives for our safety.
“As a result of the Commander in Chief's decision to defer to Secretary Gates' wishes and timeline, gay service members will continue to be treated as second class citizens, and any sense of fairness may well have been delayed for yet another year, perhaps for another decade.”
GLAAD will continue to follow the media’s coverage of the possible repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Updates can be found on GLAADblog.org