- The Washington Times - Monday, July 23, 2007

A ranking California Democrat is leading the movement to repeal the policy banning homosexuals in the military.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, California Democrat, introduced House Resolution 1246 this year, which would repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy enacted in 1993 by the Clinton administration. Mrs. Tauscher’s bill would ban any discrimination in the military on the basis of sexual orientation.

The bill is supported by a bipartisan coalition of 127 lawmakers.

“Equality in our military is a vital part of equality in America,” Mrs. Tauscher said. “For too long, the policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ has prevented talented and otherwise qualified men and women from serving their country. It’s a discriminatory policy that runs counter to the most fundamental American values of patriotism and equality. And, in today’s threat environment, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is impacting the overall readiness and effectiveness of our armed forces.”

However, a military advocacy organization is fighting vigorously to see that the ban stays in place.

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, said recent polls and propaganda have given the impression that the majority of Americans fully accept homosexuality in the military.

Not so, says Mrs. Donnelly, who refers to the federal law restricting homosexuals in the armed services as the “Military Personnel Eligibility Act of 1993.

“Our counterstrategy is to give the actual law an unofficial name that people can remember,” Mrs. Donnelly said. “We really want the emphasis to stay on the eligibility of military personnel. Homosexuals are not eligible to serve in the military under the actual law, and the majority of Americans agree with that.”

Nearly 11,000 service members have been dismissed since the law went into effect in 1993, according to the Defense Department. Critics contend, however, that those numbers don’t include people who decided not to re-enlist because of the policy and all those who have been dismissed from intelligence positions in the service.

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), nearly 800 of those dismissed had skills deemed mission-critical by the Department of Defense, including more than 300 language specialists, of which 85 were proficient in Arabic. The cost to U.S. taxpayers for maintaining the ban is estimated at more than $363 million, Mrs. Tauscher’s office said.

Mrs. Donnelly suggests that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is the reason behind so much confusion.

“The actual current statute bans homosexuals from service in the military,” Mrs. Donnelly said. “We want to give the actual law the unofficial title Military Personnel Eligibility Act of 1993 so people won’t confuse it with the Clinton policy anymore.”

The federal law, Section 654 of Title 10, bans homosexuals in the military, whereas the Clinton “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy limits the military from asking personnel what their sexual orientation is.

The Department of Defense policy on banning homosexual conduct in the military implements a federal law that addresses the “Policy Concerning Homosexuality in the Armed Forces, said Cynthia Smith, a spokesperson with the Department of Defense.

Under this policy, a person who has stated that they are a homosexual or bisexual cannot be allowed entry into the military services based upon the applicable laws and regulations governing sexual conduct by members of the armed forces, she said.

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