A bill to repeal the ban on gay men and women serving in the US military is to be introduced today.
Politico.com reports that US Representative Ellen O. Tauscher, a Democrat, will introduce legislation to overturn the ban against homosexuals serving openly in the military.
An aide told the website that Tauscher has been “buoyed” by a stronger Democratic majority in Congress.
Tauscher is the lead sponsor of The Military Readiness Enhancement Act, a role she took over from Congressman Martin Meehan.
The bill currently has 144 bipartisan co-sponsors. It aims to repeal the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy and replace it with language prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in the armed services.
Political analysts have said that President Obama is likely to see the issue as risky in the opening days of his term as it could galvanise social conservatives and other political opponents, strain his relationship with the military and force him to use valuable political capital which could be focused on his economic agenda.
The ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy was introduced in 1994 and allows gay men and women to serve in the military as long as they keep their sexual orientation secret and do not engage in any homosexual acts.
According to the Servicemembers Legal Defence Network, nearly 12,500 servicemen and women have been discharged under it since its implementation.
It is estimated that up to 45,000 Americans have been discouraged from joining or remaining in the armed forces.
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defence Network, said:
“It is ironic that the Pentagon is beginning a programme to actively recruit legal immigrants but continues to exclude citizens who are capable, tough, and dedicated service members ready and willing to serve their country.”
“We should be enlisting men and women in this country – as long as they’re qualified – wherever we can find them,” he added.
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 he 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.
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:
“He’s been pretty clear that he wants to address this issue.
“I am certainly mindful that at some point in time it could come.”