Troops buck historical trend by saying gays OK

By Anne Flaherty

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Nov. 27 2010 9:25 a.m. MST

In 1990s, the Navy became embroiled in the "Tailhook" scandal in which naval pilots were accused of sexually abusing female officers at a Las Vegas convention. Also, about two dozen female service members were reportedly sexually assaulted during Desert Storm, when U.S. troops helped drive Iraq's Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991.

Women are still barred from many combat roles, including the infantry. But allowing women to join most military units never produced the kind of backlash or decline in military effectiveness that opponents predicted.

By the time President Bill Clinton proposed allowing gays to serve in the military in 1993, gays had been explicitly barred from military service since World War I.

Foes of lifting the ban argued that the military shouldn't be used to expand the rights of gays and that allowing them to serve openly would hurt troop morale and a unit's ability to fight — the same arguments used against women and blacks.

In the end, Congress agreed to let gays serve only if their sexual orientation remained secret.

Today, advocates say they believe history has shown that U.S. troops could handle any disruptions caused by lifting the ban. Opponents of repealing "don't ask, don't tell" say letting gays serve openly in the military is different from earlier struggles over the equality of race and gender. Open gay service, they say, raises unique moral questions, such as whether gay and straight troops should be forced to share living quarters.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was expected to try to force a vote in early December, following testimony by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and service leaders before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday and Friday. The House has passed the legislation.

Much of the debate is likely to hinge on the results of the Pentagon study, with many senators saying they wanted to see whether troops would support such a change before voting for repeal. Still, it's far from clear whether the bill would even advance to a floor debate with Democrats and Republicans disagreeing on procedural grounds.

Online:

Gates transcript when review panel announced: http://tinyurl.com/28e2cb5

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