SALT LAKE CITY — Both GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate said Friday they would keep in place the ban on gays serving openly in the military.
Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee addressed the issue during the taping of their joint appearance on KSL-TV's "Sunday Edition" with Bruce Lindsay. The weekly newsmaker interview program airs Sunday at 9 a.m. and will be repeated at 4:30 p.m. It also can be viewed online at www.ksl.com.
Last week, the House voted to allow the Department of Defense to lift the ban established by the 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" law. A Senate committee has approved a similar measure.
"I think it's a bad idea," Bridgewater said. "It was a tough issue when they put it in place, and the military had to struggle with that."
He questioned the timing of the repeal.
"We're fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and having a change in a policy that may or may not be required or necessary may undermine our troops in the field," Bridgewater said. "Their issues have to be addressed, but I'm not sure at this point in time, when we're in the middle of two important wars, that we should be tinkering with that kind of policy."
Lee was asked whether there are constitutional issues involved in banning gays from openly serving in the military.
"There is no provision that prohibits the government from taking that position, from categorizing that," Lee said. "Particularly in the military context and deciding it's going to have a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy."
After the taping of the program, Lee said he did not want to change the law.
"It works," he said. "Over time, concerns have been expressed about what would happen to troop morale, troop discipline if you had a different policy. And the current policy works, it's been in place some time now. Military experts defend it, and I stand behind it."
The candidates, who defeated Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, at the state GOP convention earlier this month, expressed similar opinions on a wide range of issues, including support for replacing the federal income tax with what amounts to a national sales tax.
Both said the so-called "fair tax" would be just that, more fair to taxpayers. As an alternative, both also agreed a flat income tax rate would be preferable to the current system.
Bridgewater and Lee criticized the federal government for not taking action to curb illegal immigration. However, they stopped short of saying Utah needs to emulate Arizona's controversial new immigration law.