Senator John McCain Defends ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ Calls Gay Troops an ‘Intolerable Risk’
Washington, DC - United States Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, has reiterated his support for the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. In an April 16 letter to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), McCain says the law, passed in 1993, "unambiguously maintains that open homosexuality within the military services presents an intolerable risk to morale, cohesion and discipline." Senator McCain goes on to incorrectly assert that the U.S. Supreme Court "has ruled that the military may constitutionally discharge a service member for overt homosexual behavior."
"Senator McCain's comments are out of step with the overwhelming majority of the American people, and out of touch with the best interests of our armed forces," said Sharra E. Greer, SLDN's director of law and policy. "'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' prevents our military from recruiting and retaining the best and brightest Americans, and undermines our country's ability to assemble the strongest fighting force possible. Now, more than ever, elected officials should be primarily concerned about military readiness. Senator McCain's defense of this counter-productive law is disrespectful to the more than 65,000 lesbian and gay service members on duty today."
In his letter, Senator McCain says that, "I believe polarization of personnel and breakdown of unit effectiveness is too high a price to pay for well-intentioned but misguided efforts to elevate the interests of a minority of homosexual service members above those of their units. Most importantly, the national security of the United States, not to mention the lives of our men and women in uniform, are put at grave risk by policies detrimental to the good order and discipline which so distinguish America's Armed Services." McCain, who voted in favor of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 1993, says "I remain opposed to the open expression of homosexuality in the U.S. military."
In contrast to McCain's views, a growing number of prominent Republicans now support repeal of the ban on open service. Writing in The Washington Post in March, former Republican Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming said that, "I believe it is critical that we review and overturn the ban on gay service members in the military. I voted for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." But much has changed since 1993." Simpson went on to say that, "We need every able-bodied, smart patriot to help us win this war."
In the U.S. House of Representatives, a bi-partisan coalition of 123 lawmakers now support legislation to repeal the law. Republican Congressman Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland, who is also a Vietnam War veteran, is an original co-sponsor of legislation to repeal the law. His Republican colleague from Connecticut, Congressman Christopher Shays, has noted that, "It seems to me, competence, ability, dedication and commitment to country should dictate one's eligibility for military service and not sexual preference." And Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) recently told The Miami Herald that, "We investigate people, bring them up on charges, basically wreck their lives. People who've signed up to serve our country. We should be thanking them."
"National security should be a non-partisan issue, and both Republicans and Democrats increasingly understand the value of lifting the ban," said Greer. "Every day, the Pentagon fires another two service members simply because of their sexual orientation. We have lost more than 11,000 good people already, including doctors, linguists and other skilled professionals crucial to the effectiveness of the armed forces. How many more must be sent packing before leaders like Senator McCain understand the price we all pay for this policy of discrimination?"A complete copy of Senator McCain's letter is available online at www.sldn.org.