WASHINGTON (BP)–President Obama and Pentagon leaders announced Friday they have certified the United States military is prepared for open homosexuals to serve in the armed services.
The certification by the president, plus new Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen, means only a 60-day waiting period remains before final repeal of a longstanding policy that bars open homosexuals from serving openly in the Armed Forces.
In compliance with a law enacted in December, Obama, Panetta and Mullen certified that revocation of a nearly 18-year-old law known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) would not impair military effectiveness. The action was announced on the same day Panetta was sworn in as Defense secretary.
The actions by Congress and Obama last year set in place the process by which the military would be prepared to welcome open homosexuals into all branches of service.
Critics of the reversal warn it will result in infringements on religious liberty, as well as harm to the readiness, privacy and retention of service members.
Last year, more than 60 retired chaplains signed a letter to Obama and then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warning repeal would marginalize “deeply held” religious beliefs of military personnel and present a conflict when some chaplains, while preaching, “present religious teachings that identify homosexual behavior as immoral.” They warned changing the policy could influence chaplains not only in what they could preach but in what they could say in a counseling session. A repeal, the letter further said, would harm morale because it would be casting “the sincerely held religious beliefs of many chaplains and Service members as rank bigotry comparable to racism.”
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness and a longtime foe of overturning DADT, said it was no surprise the officials “would pull the trigger on the military on a Friday afternoon, making it less likely that anyone will report on the many ‘thorny issues’ and serious social problems expected to ensue.”
“It is an obvious political payoff to activists of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] Left, delivered at the expense of” soldiers and Marines, she said in a written statement.
Advocates for gay groups applauded the certification by the White House and Pentagon. Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, called it “the final critical strike against ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ a policy whose demise can’t come fast enough.”
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other pro-family and conservative organizations opposed repeal of DADT.
Enacted in 1993, DADT barred homosexuals from serving openly but also prohibited military commanders from asking service members if they are homosexual or about their “sexual orientation.”
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief of Baptist Press. With reporting by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.