The Pentagon wants a candid discussion within the military about
'don't ask, don't tell.' But some service members are acknowledging
they're gay. Under the law, that could lead to a discharge.
As the US military explores what repealing "don't ask, don't
tell" would look like, it is finding it must walk a fine line
between obeying the controversial law and potentially running afoul
From now until December, the Pentagon is "engaging the force," in
an attempt to determine what service members think about repealing
the law that forbids gays and lesbians from serving openly and that
President Obama has pledged to scrap. Military officials are also
dusting off surveys and other polls used in the early 1990s that
likely will be used to assess military attitudes toward gays serving
But as Army Secretary John McHugh is learning now, the military
will have to tread carefully as it prepares for potential repeal.
Mr. McHugh told reporters Wednesday that he has had conversations
with service members who voluntarily told him that they are gay - a
technical violation of the current law forbidding service members
from disclosing their sexual orientation.
But the only way top military leaders will be able to "take the
temperature" of the rank-and-file on the issue is if they can speak
candidly with service members, both gay and straight, he said.
A moratorium on discharges
Mr. McHugh, a former Republican congressman from New York, went a
step farther, saying there is a "moratorium" on discharging gays or
lesbians based on an admission of their sexual orientation for
purposes of the review, when members of the "working group" or other
military leaders poll them on their views.
"I've had men and women in uniform approach me and declare that
they were gay and give me their opinion as to how they feel," McHugh
told reporters in Washington Wednesday.
That raises a question as to whether the don't ask, don't tell
law, first implemented in 1993 after a long and controversial debate
begun by President Clinton about gays and lesbians serving openly,
will be upheld during this process. The review is due to Defense
Secretary Robert Gates Dec. 1. Congress will then take up the issue
to determine if the law should be repealed.
A spokeswoman for McHugh said the Army Secretary will abide by
the law even though he must be able to conduct candid conversations
with service members. The Pentagon's top lawyer, Jeh Johnson,
acknowledged last week that military officials are still trying to
figure out how to talk with gay service members, but do it within
"We are also looking at ways to solicit information from gay and
lesbian service members, consistent with the law," Mr. …