BY Kerry Eleveld
February 02 2010 5:05 PM ET
Defense secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that they support President Barack Obama’s aspiration to repeal a discriminatory policy that prevents gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.
“I fully support the president’s policy,” Gates said in his opening statement. “The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change but how we best prepare for it.”
Secretary Gates said the Pentagon would “immediately” initiate a one-year study of how to implement a change in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as it simultaneously undertakes a 45-day review of how discharges can be eased under the current law.
“I have also directed the department to quickly review the regulations used to implement the current ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law and, within 45 days, present to me the recommended changes to those regulations that, within existing law, will enforce this policy in a more humane and fair manner,” said Gates.
But in what was perhaps the strongest and most defining moment of the hearing, Admiral Mullen stated his personal support for repealing the discriminatory ban.
“Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this 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,” Mullen said. “For me personally it comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”
Gates’s and Mullen’s remarks prompted an apparent rebuke from GOP senator John McCain of Arizona, the ranking member on the committee, who has noted repeatedly that he opposes changing the policy.
McCain told Gates that he was “deeply disappointed” by his comments and called them “clearly biased.”
"I'm happy to say that we still have a Congress of the United States that will have to pass a law to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell' despite your efforts to repeal in a number of respects by fiat," he said.
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