Don`t lift gay ban yet: Pentagon
Washington: Top US military officials urged Congress not to lift or ease a ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces until they have a strategy to address "concerns" about the move among troops.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the US Joints Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, said in a letter to the House Armed Services Committee that they "strongly oppose" any change to the prohibition for now.
"I hope Congress will not do so, as it would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns, and perspectives do not matter on an issue with such a direct impact and consequence for them and their families," they wrote.
US President Barack Obama has called for the repeal of the so-called "Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell" law of 1993 that bars gays from serving openly in the military, and gay rights groups want a freeze on such dismissals until then.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a champion of ending the ban, said in a statement in response to the letter that she looked forward to the Pentagon`s review but pushed for action now.
"The administration should immediately place a moratorium on dismissals under this policy until the review has been completed and Congress has acted," said Pelosi.
With the US political climate heating up ahead of November mid-term elections, several US lawmakers have called for ending the ban, under which gay soldiers must keep quiet about their sexual orientation or face dismissal, while others have expressed concern echoed by Gates and Mullen.
"I believe in the strongest possible terms that the Department must, prior to any legislative action, be allowed the opportunity to conduct a thorough, objective, and systematic assessment of the impact of such a policy change," they wrote.
"Our military must be afforded the opportunity to inform us of their concerns, insights, and suggestions if we are to carry out this change successfully," they wrote.
National public opinion polls have shown broad support for ending the ban, a step Gates and Mullen have both publicly supported.
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