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Republicans Want to Go Back in Time on Gays in Military 

Republicans Want to Go Back in Time on Gays in Military 

Republicans

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Republican primary debate last night in New Hampshire was not only an attack on President Obama, it was an attack on gays serving in the military.

Except for Rep. Ron Paul, every Republican vying for the 2012 presidential nomination expressed support for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and five of them said they were open to reimplementing it as the law of the land. This echoes four years ago when multiple Republicans and Democrats alike were jockeying to become president after George W. Bush. When there were still multiple candidates from either party, DADT was the one issue on which there was complete party unity; every Democratic candidate supported repeal and every Republican did not, including some who previously had, most notably the presumed front-runner Mitt Romney.

The current Republican candidates have clearly learned nothing in the national dialogue that has unfolded on DADT over the past few years through numerous Congressional hearings, public opinion polls, studies, surveys, and high-profile lawsuits. DADT repeal was passed last year with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and signed into law last December by President Obama. Currently the military is training the entire force to prepare for repeal.

Just this week Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he sees no reason why he could not certify repeal this month before he departs the Pentagon if he has the concurrence of the service chiefs. This is the final hurdle before DADT finally becomes history and gays and lesbians can serve with honesty and integrity in the military, equally aside their straight counterparts. As early as September, following a 60-day waiting period in Congress, the ugly chapter of DADT could finally close for good.

In Republican-led hearings in the House of Representatives earlier this year, all the military service chiefs indicated the repeal training of their respective service was going exceptionally well and that there was no reason they could foresee why repeal should not happen. The service chiefs indicated they had seen no significant issues and were far less concerned with repeal than they had been just six months earlier before the president signed repeal into law.

The most recent polls taken on this issue several months ago indicated approximately 80% of the American public support repeal of DADT. The nine-month-long study the Pentagon completed last year indicated that approximately 70% of the men and women in the military either supported repeal or were ambivalent about the issue. Last year, a federal judge declared DADT unconstitutional and ordered the military to stop enforcing this law. This decision was stayed, or suspended in layman's terms, and is currently on appeal in the 9th Circuit.

Admiral Michael Mullen, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been a strong, vocal supporter of repeal, calling into question the integrity of the military on this issue. Even former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Colin Powell, one of the strongest advocates for this law in 1993, has said the time has come to repeal it.

Despite this tremendous mountain of activity for repeal over the past few years, almost every Republican seeking the presidency wants to turn back the clock and re-open the door to DADT. Sadly, few have served our nation in the military, instead seeking personal fortune or political gain, above the call to military service. Had these candidates actually served, or if they were more in touch with the men and women currently in uniform, they would understand that we have far more important issues concerning our national security than the sexual orientation of those who serve.

The men and women serving today care about when we'll be out of Iraq and Afghanistan, or if their unit will again be deployed for the fourth or fifth time. They care if they'll be home to see their loved ones during the holidays, or if they'll have an interpreter when they need to speak with a local tribal leader, or if they'll have a medic nearby when they get wounded or fall sick. They don't care if that translator, nurse, infantryman, pilot, or logistician happens to have a different sexual orientation than their own. They want to know if that person is a professional and will have their back when they need it the most in a time of emergency.

America is the last nation with a military of any reputation to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Every one of our allies who has changed their policy has found their military to be stronger and more mission-ready with the open, honest service of gays and lesbians. There is no reason the greatest nation on earth is any different, or less capable of dealing with open service. We should no longer fire our brave men and women solely because of their sexual orientation. It is past time to look forward, not backwards on this issue, as the Republican candidates demonstrated last night during the primary debate.

Our nation and military need the valuable contributions of every capable, patriotic American, willing to put themselves in harm's way to defend our freedoms and way of life. I wish the same were true of pandering politicians seeking higher office.

Maj. Mike Almy, a 13-year veteran of the Air Force, was discharged under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and has sued to be reinstated, He testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and was a key witness in the Log Cabin Republican trial that declared DADT unconstitutional.

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