PinkNews.co.uk staff writer.
The policy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which bars openly lesbian, bisexual or gay people from serving in the United States Armed Forces, will most likely have to be repealed by Congress, according to Hillary Clinton.
The Senator from New York was First Lady of the United States when the policy became law in 1993.
She is now running for the White House in her own right, and is one of two candidates for the Democratic nomination for President.
In an interview with Philadelphia Gay News, Senator Clinton was asked if she would use the same method that US President Harry Truman did in 1948 to end racial discrimination in the country’s military, namely an executive order.
“If I were legally able to do it,” she replied.
“I don’t know what the legal framework would be … whether the President has authority to do it by executive order or not, I’m not sure.
“But I have been committed for more than nine years to eliminating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The candidate also questioned whether a signing order on a military appropriations bill would be effective either.
“What a signing order can do, a signing statement, what Bush has done, is to say you’re not going to enforce certain aspects of a law that’s been passed.
“This is different. There’s a law already on the books, which says the President cannot waive Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
“I don’t think the President would have the authority. I think we’d have to get it changed by legislation, but I will look into that.”
The United States continues to operate under the “DADT” law, a messy compromise reached in 1994.
As a Presidential candidate in 1992, Bill Clinton had promised to allow gays to serve, but when he took office he was forced to accept the present policy in the face of military and Congressional opposition.
DADT states that commanders may not ask the sexual orientation of service members.
Gay men and lesbians can only continue to serve only if they do not engage in homosexual acts, and keep their sexual orientation a secret.
Hillary Clinton’s main opponent Senator Barack Obama has also publicly called for DADT to be repealed by Congress.
None of the Republican candidates support repeal.
A December 2006 Zogby poll of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan found that 73 percent of soldiers reported being “comfortable in the presence of gays,” and only 37 percent oppose repealing the policy.
Many military officials, including General John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Clinton, now believe that gays should be allowed to serve openly.
Legislation to repeal this discriminatory policy was introduced last spring in the House of Representatives.
However, that will be of little comfort to the more than 11,000 troops have been dismissed under the policy.
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), nearly 800 of those dismissed had skills deemed ‘mission-critical’ by the Department of Defence, including more than 300 language specialists, of which 85 were proficient in Arabic.
The cost to U.S. taxpayers for maintaining DADT is estimated at more than $363 million (£182.6m).