BY Kerry Eleveld
October 26 2009 4:10 PM ET
Secretary of the Army John McHugh told the Army Times Sunday that he does not believe lifting the military’s gay ban would have detrimental effects on the Army.
According to the Army Times, “When asked specifically if lifting the gay ban would seriously disrupt the military, as predicted by those who oppose repeal, McHugh said there is no reason to think major turmoil would ensue. ‘Anytime you have a broad-based policy change, there are challenges to that,’ he said. ‘The Army has a big history of taking on similar issues, [with] predictions of doom and gloom that did not play out,’ he said.”
McHugh’s comments are the first signal from someone inside the Defense Department that allowing gays to serve openly in the military is an achievable goal.
“He is the highest-level person at the Pentagon to say that we can do this, that the Pentagon is ready, and that all these doomsday scenarios are not to be taken seriously,” said Dr. Nathaniel Frank, a senior research fellow at the Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara, that studies gender, sexuality, and the military.
Congressman Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, an Army veteran and the lead sponsor of the House’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal bill -- the Military Readiness Enhancement Act -- said the remarks from Secretary McHugh could help assuage the fears of some members on the Hill.
“It’s encouraging to see that Army secretary McHugh recognizes that the critics of overturning ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ are out of touch with the realities of military life -- it’s very clear that the defense community knows we can’t afford to be letting go of nearly two brave service members a day,” said Murphy, who served with McHugh on the House Armed Services Committee before he was appointed to his current post.
Getting the green light on repeal from the military leadership was also emphasized during a Meet the Press segment earlier this month with senators Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina.
Levin said he believed Obama would make good on his pledge to end the gay ban. “I think it has to be done in the -- in the right way,” he said, “which is to get a buy-in from the military, which I think is now possible.”
Graham agreed that he would take his cues from the military about how to move forward on the policy. “I'm open-minded to what the military may suggest,” he said.
Secretary McHugh did not indicate his personal views on “don’t ask, don’t tell” during the Army Times interview, but White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told The Advocate earlier this year that McHugh and President Barack Obama “are in agreement on changing the policy they both don’t think is working for this country right now.”