U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss this afternoon declared himself opposed to any change in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that permits gays to serve in the military – but not openly.
The occasion was a testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen.
Mullen said it was his opinion that lifting the restriction would be “the right thing to do.”
Chambliss holds the U.S. Senate seat once occupied by Sam Nunn, who helped forge the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the 1990s under President Bill Clinton. In 2008, Nunn said he thought it was time the policy was reexamined.
The dichotomy of Chambliss’ position was on display. On one hand, Georgia’s senior senator acknowledged the service of gays and lesbians, and predicted that they would complete future service “valiantly.”
On the other hand, Chambliss said “the presence” in the military of those “who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts” would create an unacceptable risk in the military.
Chambliss’ statement begins at the 51:50 mark in the C-SPAN clip below:
Here’s precisely what Chambliss said:
Just as was stated by my friend Senator Udall, I think the live-and-let-live policy is not a bad policy to adhere to, and that’s what we have in place in the military with “don’t ask, don’t tell” right now.
To you, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen, you’re in a tough spot. We understand that. This is an extremely sensitive issue and everybody on this committee I’m satisfied is sensitive to this issue, both inside and outside the military.
In the military, it presents an entirely different problem than it does in civilian life, because there is no constitutional right to serve in our armed forces. Today we know we have gay and lesbian soldiers serving. They’ve served in the past. They’re going to serve in the future, and they’re going to serve in a very valiant way.
But the primary purpose of the armed forces is to prepare for and prevail in combat should the need arise. Military life is fundamentally different from civilian life, and military society is characterized by its own laws, rules, customs and traditions – including restrictions on personal behavior that would not be acceptable in civilian society.
Examples include alcohol use, adultery, fraternization and body art. If we change this rule of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” what are we going to do with these other issues?
The armed forces must maintain personnel policies that excludes persons whose presence in the armed forces would create an unacceptable risk to the armed forces high standards, the morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion.
In my opinion, the presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would very likely create an unacceptable risk to those high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and effective unit cohesion and effectiveness. I’m opposed to this change, and I look forward to a very spirited debate on this issue….
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