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The Indiana Daily Student

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Officials review military gay ban

Defense Secretary Robert Gates took the first real steps Tuesday toward lifting the ban on gays serving openly in the military, announcing a yearlong review aimed at answering practical and emotional questions about the effect of lifting the ban and imposing looser standards for enforcing the ban in the meantime.

According to U.S. officials, the senior-level study will be co-chaired by a top-ranked civilian and a senior uniformed officer. It would recommend the best way to go about lifting the ban, starting from the premise that it will take time to accomplish that goal but that it can be done without harming the capabilities or cohesion of the military force, officials said.

While the review is likely to take a year to complete and even more time to implement, its initiation will advance President Barack Obama’s goal of repealing the ban and bring a divisive issue for the military and Congress back to the fore.

Gates will testify before the Senate on the issue, alongside Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both were expected to make their most far-reaching statements on the ban known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

One U.S. official said Gates and Mullen will outline a more lenient standard for enforcing the current ban, as Gates said last year he would consider. The interim policy would make it harder for a third party to turn in a gay service member and would raise the standard for evidence that the service member is gay before the person could be dismissed.

Under the 1993 law, engaging in homosexual conduct – even if you don’t tell anyone – can be enough to dismiss a person. The law was intended as a compromise between President Bill Clinton, who wanted to lift the military’s ban on gays entirely, and a reluctant Congress and military that said doing so would threaten order.

Repeal of the ban has been opposed by some senior members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and by some reluctant congressional Democrats.

Last year, the Defense Department dismissed the fewest number of service members for violating its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy than it had in more than a decade.
According to figures released Monday by the Pentagon, 428 service members in 2009 were dismissed for being openly gay compared with 619 in 2008. In 1997, 997 service members were dismissed.

Overall, more than 10,900 troops have been dismissed under the policy.

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