Democrats Push to End 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

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WASHINGTON - Democrats in Congress are ramping up efforts to overturn the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which says homosexuals cannot serve openly in America's armed forces.

Military leaders question the timing of this push, saying our troops are already under heavy stress.

Lt. Dan Choi is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, an Arabic linguist, and Iraq war veteran. He is also gay and no longer allowed to serve in the military.

"I'm just a soldier, I raise my right hand and I say I want to defend the protections and the rights of all American people, the rights of free speech, to religion, and to love," Choi said.

According to the Center for American Progress, Choi is one of 13,000 men and women discharged because of their sexuality under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
    
"We're certain that Lt. Choi has served honorably, but he is unfortunately ineligible for military service," said Tommy Sears, executive director of the Center for Military Readiness.

But Congress will soon revisit that policy. After hearing Choi's story, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., convinced Chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee Carl Levin, D-Mich., to hold hearings on the matter this Fall.
         
Similar hearings are expected in the House, but is expected to be met with strong opposition.

"You see, you die to individualism when you enter into the military," said radio talk show host Janet Parshall of Janet Parshall's America. "It's about unit cohesion, it's about military readiness, and in the days of General George Washington, if you were found out to be of that persuasion, you were literally drummed out."

Federal law bans homosexuals from serving in the armed forces. But the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, created in 1993 under President Bill Clinton, says military officials are not to ask recruits if they are gay, but are supposed to make it clear that being an open homosexual disqualifies them from service.

"At this point, I just don't see any need for any change in this policy," said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

But in a statement, Sen. Gillibrand said, "By repealing this policy, we will increase America's strength - both militarily and morally."
    
Still, a voluntary online poll from the Military Officers Association of America shows that 52 percent want to reinstate an outright ban on gays in the military.
    
Sixteen percent of service members who took the survey do not want gays to serve openly.

And 68 percent said allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would have a negative effect on troop morale and readiness.

"You are inviting more disruption and more tension than you otherwise would have by introducing the potential for sexual tension that otherwise wouldn't be there," Sears added.

Both sides of the argument are expected to make their voices heard as the debate on Capitol Hill draws near.

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