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Former secretary
of Defense urges Congress to "revisit" gay ban

Former secretary
of Defense urges Congress to "revisit" gay ban

William_cohen

Former secretary of Defense William Cohen said Tuesday that congressional leaders should take another look at the military's antigay "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gay service personnel.

Joining a long list of former military leaders who have come out against the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gay service personnel, former secretary of Defense William Cohen told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday that congressional leaders should revisit the gay ban. "It's time to start thinking about it and starting to discuss it," Cohen said in an interview regarding a January 2 New York Times op-ed by retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili. "I think what we're hearing from within the military is what we're hearing from within society--that we're becoming a much more open, tolerant society for diverse opinions and orientation," Cohen said, adding that the ban is "a policy of discrimination."

Cohen's remarks are the first by a Defense secretary indicating support for reevaluating the law. He went on to say that "we ought to have discussions, some hearings" and noted that "I think that [incoming Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl] Levin and others will ask for hearings and listen to testimony."

Cohen's remarks follow both Shalikashvili's op-ed and a December 2006 Zogby/Michael D. Palm Center poll finding that most service personnel are comfortable with lesbians and gays. Shalikashvili wrote in TheNew YorkTimes, "Last year I held a number of meetings with gay soldiers and marines, including some with combat experience in Iraq, and an openly gay senior sailor who was serving effectively as a member of a nuclear submarine crew. These conversations showed me just how much the military has changed and that gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers."

Other prominent military leaders, including Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, USA (Ret.), RADM John Hutson, USN (Ret.), and former West Point superintendent Daniel Christman have also expressed support for revisiting the law. "I think it will absolutely happen," Hutson said when asked by the Associated Press if repeal is imminent.

"All of the data indicate that change on this issue is inevitable," said Aaron Belkin, director of the Michael D. Palm Center. "The vast majority of service members are personally comfortable working and interacting with gays and lesbians, and there is only so long that Congress can ignore the evidence." (The Advocate)

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