Follow the leaders

If the military’s top brass wants to get rid of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ what’s stopping them?

Why wait a year?

That’s the question equal-rights advocates are asking, following Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen’s Feb. 2 call for repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule for homosexuals in the military. Unfortunately, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who also supports getting rid of the law, wants to study the possible impacts for as long as a year.

Mullen, clearly speaking from the heart, got to the core of the matter in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” he said.

Acknowledging that he’d served with homosexuals since 1968, Mullen said that for him personally, “it comes down to integrity—theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”

It was sad to see Sen. John McCain, who four years ago said he’d defer to military leaders on the matter, jump to the defense of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Speaking of homosexuals in the military, he said, “I honor their sacrifice, and I honor them,” but he then proceeded to insist the law was “imperfect but effective.” Effective at what? Forcing people to lie about who they are? Culling out talented personnel—including, reportedly, a significant number of Arabic translators—who happen to be homosexual?

If the nation’s top military officer says repealing the ban is “the right thing to do,” as Mullen put it, why not do it right away?