A new study released this week by a team of retired senior flag and general officers from the US military has concluded that the ban on openly gay service members is counterproductive and should end, according to the Associated Press.

“I believe this should have been done much earlier,” said Brigadier General Hugh Aitken, USMC (Ret.), one of the authors of the report.

The nonpartisan study group has a combined century and a half of military service from all four branches of the military, and it marks the first time a Marine Corps general has ever called publicly for an end to the gay ban.

The report which includes ten findings and four recommendations concluded not only that the current policy prevents some gay troops from performing their duties, but that gays already serve openly, that tolerance of homosexuality in the military has grown dramatically, and that lifting the ban is “unlikely to pose any significant risk to morale, good order, discipline, or cohesion.”

General John Shalikashvili, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who previously favoured the gay ban but reversed course last year in an op-ed in the New York Times, endorsed the officers’ new study, calling it “one of the most comprehensive evaluations of the issue of gays in the military since the Rand study fifteen years ago” and saying it “ought to be given serious consideration by both Congress and the Joint Chiefs.”

Meanwhile Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Centre, said that “retired officers have surpassed lawmakers in calling for repeal of the current policy,” which allows gays and lesbians to serve only if they conceal their sexual orientation.

The Palm Centre, a research institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, commissioned the new report.

The officers reached their findings independently and required a written pledge that the Centre would publish their recommendations regardless of the political implications, and would not seek to influence conclusions.

In June, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for bringing together “a cross section of people who understand the military and are committed to nondiscrimination in our country” to review “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Representative Susan Davis, a Democrat from California, has said she will hold hearings on the issue before the end of year.

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