A group of gay and lesbian veterans have launched a nationwide campaign to push for a repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

According to the Boston Herald, the seven-week speaking tour will feature seven former service members who argue that the discriminatory law keeps able-bodied Americans from serving in the military at a time when the war in Iraq makes America desperate for troops.

“A lot of people have never known a gay or lesbian person and, as a result, have all sorts of misconceptions about what gays and lesbians are like, and no idea what impact ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ has had on national security,” said Alex Nicholson, an Army veteran and founder and director of the “Call to Duty Tour.”

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” dates back to 1993, when President Bill Clinton suspended a Department of Defence policy banning gays and lesbians from the military.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff and influential members of Congress, however, opposed Mr Clinton’s attempt to permanently lift the ban.

The compromise was “don’t ask, don’t tell,” under which the military was not to inquire about the sexual orientation of prospective service members, and gays and lesbians were not to reveal their sexual orientation.

Under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” those who did or were “found out” would be subject to dismissal. In her auto-biography Living History, Hillary Clinton called it the worst compromise she or her husband had ever been forced to make.

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