CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has reported that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Peter Pace’s departure from that post may be linked to his recent comments regarding lesbian and gay military personnel.

According to Starr’s report, Pace’s comments, along with his role in planning the war in Iraq and his support for convicted Vice Presidential advisor I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, played key roles in Congressional opposition to Pace’s re-nomination.

His recent statements that he believed homosexual statements are immoral presented a “significant problem” for Pace, according to Starr.

“Congressional leaders, in warning Secretary of Defence Gates that Pace’s remarks would be an obstacle to his confirmation, have sent a clear message that anti-gay prejudice has no place in public policy debates,” said Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for Servicemembers Legal Defence Network (SLDN).

“General Pace’s remarks are still fresh in the minds of lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel and were disrespectful to their commitment and service to our country.

“Those who held General Pace responsible for his irresponsible remarks should be commended for taking a courageous stand in favour of our military personnel.”

In a March interview with The Chicago Tribune, General Pace said:

“I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts.”

He went on to reiterate his support for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by saying that “I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.”

SLDN demanded that General Pace apologise for his remarks, igniting a firestorm of controversy in the media.

Pace later acknowledged that he should not have given his personal opinion in the interview, but stopped short of issuing any apology.

Virginia Senators John Warner and James Webb, both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticized Pace’s remarks. On June 3, Democrat Senator Joe Biden called Pace “flat wrong.” Former Republican Wyoming Senator Alan K. Simpson also decried Pace’s remarks, noting that Alan Turing, a World War II mathematician who cracked the Nazi code, was gay.

“Would Pace call Turing immoral?” Simpson asked.

A group of seven high-ranking retired military officers also called on Pace to apologise, writing in a statement that, “our community has a long history of serving our country in the armed forces.

“Today, there are more than 65,000 lesbian and gay troops on duty. Another one million gay and lesbian veterans, including the seven of us, have served in our fighting forces. General Pace’s remarks dishonour that service, as does the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law.”

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