WASHINGTON, D.C. — Adm. John Mullen, President George W. Bush’s nominee to succeed Gen. Peter Pace as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was questioned about the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel during a Senate hearing held July 31. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine queried Mullen on the continued dismissal of gay troops under the ban. While confirming that he would implement the current law, Mullen also told Collins that “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.”
Nominee for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, John Mullen, recently suggested that Congress and the American public can consider a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’
He went on to say that, “I’d love to have Congress make its own decisions” with respect to considering repeal. Mullen’s remarks follow a firestorm of controversy surrounding comments by Pace referring to gay personnel as “immoral” during a March interview with the Chicago Tribune. Immediately prior to his nomination as Chairman, Mullen told The Brookings Institution in Washington that “If it’s time to revisit that policy, the American people I believe — and we live in a country — the American people ought to raise that issue and we’ll have the debate. 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 based on what — the debate that’s going on and if it changes, it changes. I think that’s the path right now.”
“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,” said Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). “As Sen. Collins rightly pointed out, there is growing concern among the national security establishment that the loss of talented gay troops is having a detrimental impact on our armed forces. Adm. 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.’”
During her questioning, Collins noted that she had “recently met with a retired admiral in Maine who urged me to urge you to reexamine the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy,” indicating that military commanders are beginning to support Congressional action to revisit the law. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1246), a bill to lift the ban on open service, is now supported by 126 bi-partisan lawmakers in the House of Representatives. A recent poll of military personnel found that 73 percent of those surveyed were comfortable around gays, and CNN found last month that 79 percent of the American public supports repeal.
“More and more military leaders are willing to take a second look at this counter-productive law, and we are hopeful that Adm. Mullen is among them,” said Greer.
— For more information on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and Congressional legislation to repeal the law, visit www.sldn.org.