The President of the United States could wait several months before he moves to end a ban on openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people serving in the country’s armed forces.
Barack Obama’s staff recently met with the Servicemembers Legal Defence Network, a group working to overturn the ban.
The Boston Globe reports that the President “does not want to ask lawmakers to do so until the military has completed a comprehensive assessment of the impact that such a move would have on military discipline.
“Then, the President hopes to be able to make a case to members of both parties that overturning the 1993 law would be in the best interest of national security.”
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of SLDN, told the paper:
“The Clinton experience makes a lot of folks apprehensive.”
President Clinton found himself embroiled in a fight with Congress over gays in the military soon after he moved into the White House in 1993.
As a Presidential candidate 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.
The Clinton compromise wasted vital political capital with Congress that could arguably have been better spent on issues more important to the voters.
When the Republicans swept the 1994 Congressional elections, President Clinton’s next six years in office suffered under a hostile legislature.
The ban, known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, 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.
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.
The current chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, said an interview after his December meeting with Barack Obama in Chicago:
“The President-elect’s been pretty clear that he wants to address this issue.
“I am certainly mindful that at some point in time it could come.”
In May Admiral Mullen said that Congress is responsible for the ban on openly lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans from military service.
Speaking to graduating cadets at West Point military academy, he said that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a law that the Armed Forces follow.
“Should the law change, the military will carry that out too,” he said.