July 1st, 2009
09:35 AM ET
13 years ago

Gates considering selective enforcement of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/01/art.gatesbo0701.gi.jpg caption="Defense Secretary Gates told reporters he has discussed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' with President Obama."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates for the first time is outlining potential Obama Administration plans to selectively enforce the "don't ask don't tell" ban on gays in the military so that some gays could serve.

Gates says he is now looking at ways to make the ban "more humane" including letting people serve who may have been outed due to vengeance or a jilted lover. The remarks were made in a transcript released Tuesday by the Pentagon.

In addition, Capt. John Kirby, spokesman for Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday the chairman "supports the idea of a less draconian way of enforcing the policy."

Gates told reporters traveling with him, "One of the things we're looking at - is there flexibility in how we apply this law?" As the "don't ask don't tell" law now stands, anyone who is openly gay in the military is expelled if they are found out.

Gates indicated he is looking at several options. "Let me give you an example. Do we need to be driven when the information, to take action on somebody, if we get that information from somebody who may have vengeance in mind or blackmail or somebody who has been jilted."

Gates said he has discussed the issue with President Obama and also during a meeting with his top war-fighting commanders last week. At that military meeting Gates said. "The issue that we face is that how do we begin to do preparations and simultaneously the administration move forward in terms of asking the Congress to change the law."

Obama has been criticized for not moving fast enough to propose a repeal of the ban to Congress. Gates did not indicate the Pentagon was yet supporting a full repeal.

"What we have is a law - be it a policy or a regulation - and as I discovered when I got into it, it's a very prescriptive law. It doesn't leave much to the imagination for a lot of flexibility. And so one of the things we're looking at - is there flexibility in how we apply this law."

The secretary appears to be proposing interim measures. "If somebody is outed by a third party … does that force us to take an action? And I don't know the answer to that, and I don't want to pretend to. But that's the kind of thing we're looking at to see if there's at least a more humane way to apply the law until the law gets changed."

Filed under: Obama administration • Robert Gates
soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. Retired US ARMY

    Don't ask don't tell is out dated and homophobic. While it was a step in the right direction, if someone can serve because someone was seeking revenge by outing them, then they can serve period. If their conduct creates a problem then there are other provissions of the UCMJ that can be used to deal with them.

    July 1, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  2. Just My Opinion in Texas

    OK ... here's an idea .. take each "don't ask, don't tell" situation on a case by case basis ... and here is what I mean by that.

    IF the soldier is in a sensitive position (Translator in an Arab/Muslim country ... gunner in a tank battalion or other close quarters) then I believe the milltary would be WELL within its rights to re-assign the soldier in question to a less sensitive position.

    IF the soldier is in a non sensitive position (Support staff ... medical staff .. etc.) then leave the soldier be.

    In short ... re-assign if by staying in the current position, the soldier is at risk (And being gay in a Muslim country DOES qualify as being "at risk".)or combat readiness of a unit is compromised ...Otherwise, leave the soldier alone.

    Personally ... I think a little common sense would go a LOONG way in resolving this.

    (But we ARE talking about an extension of the federal government and since WHEN has common sense factored into ANY of their decisions?)

    July 1, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  3. franco

    Leave it alone! I am a veteran; I do not feel comfortable sharing shower stalls, open toilets, and field latrines with gays. call me homophobe, call me anything. Don't ask, don't tell has been working well since 1993. Leave it alone.

    July 1, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  4. Hugo

    I wonder how much taxpayer funded Medicaid and Medicare healthcare costs are to the US taxpayer as associated with paying for AIDS treatments in support of the homosexual lifestyle? Obama, you've increased taxes on cigarettes for their associated detrimental health effects, you're looking at a FED sales tax, you're telling us what lite bulbs to use and car to drive, so why not tax being GAY!

    July 1, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  5. Dan Holiday

    Hey if gays want to fight and die, let them. Keep 'em right at the front line, and let them take bullets like the straight soldiers do.

    July 1, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
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