WASHINGTON (BP)–The nominee to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a Senate committee July 31 he supports the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuals, although opponents of the policy believe he left room in his testimony for a change of heart.
President Bush nominated Navy Adm. Mike Mullen to replace the current chairman, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, who is retiring at the end of September. During an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mullen was asked mostly about Iraq, although Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine asked him if it was time to reevaluate the policy, which prevents homosexuals from serving openly. It was adopted in 1994 under President Clinton.
“I’m supportive of that policy, and I really think it is for the American people to come forward really through this body to both debate that policy and make changes if that’s appropriate,” Mullen said. “… That’s how I see it. The current policy is one I support [and] have supported and, until it changes, or really changes both in policy and law, that’s where I am.”
Mullen’s comment about public debate was applauded by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an organization working to overturn the policy.
“Admiral Mullen’s remarks are a welcome change of pace among military leadership, where there has long been an adversity to encouraging debate on opening the services to lesbian and gay patriots,” Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for the Servicemembers Network, said in a statement. “… Admiral Mullen should be applauded for his willingness to take part in a national conversation about that issue, and for his open-minded approach to working with Congress as they consider the future of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.'”
Mullen made similar comments in April when speaking at the Brookings Institution, the Washington Blade reported.
“If it’s time to revisit that policy … the American people ought to raise that issue and we’ll have the debate,” he was quoted as saying.
He further said at the time: “As a member of the Joint Chiefs and obviously the head of one of the services, I will contribute to that and give my best military advice … [on] the debate that’s going on, and if it changes, it changes.”
Mullen’s remarks — though non-committal — are being closely monitored by homosexual activists partly because the current chairman, Pace, earlier this year called homosexuality “immoral.”
“As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behavior] to be our policy,” Pace said in March, “just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else’s wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and a former U.S. Marine, told Baptist Press in March that there are practical reasons to support “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
“Sometimes you’ll have 100, 500 or 1,000 soldiers, sailors or Marines together in a barracks or in a ship bay, all using the same showers and bathroom facilities. When you introduce sexuality into that kind of environment, it begins to break down discipline and unit cohesion,” he said.
With reporting by Gregory Tomlin.