WASHINGTON, July 24 (UPI) -- A U.S. House of Representatives panel is examining the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bars openly gay and lesbian people from serving in the U.S. military.
Opponents to the policy told a House Armed Services subcommittee Wednesday the policy hurt the military by excluding otherwise-qualified people from enlistment and discharging highly trained personnel who have acknowledged their sexual orientation publicly, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
Proponents said cohesion and morale would be harmed by allowing openly gay personnel to serve, The Washington Post reported.
Likely Democratic Party presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois said he would work to repeal the law; his presumptive Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said it should be maintained.
A bill to dismantle the policy was introduced last year.
"We have figured out how to deal with racial integration and gender discrimination," said U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., the bill's sponsor. "This is the last frontier."
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, which opposes a repeal, said allowing gays to serve openly would drive away individuals not wishing to serve with gays.
Retired U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, who lost his right leg after stepping on a land mine in Iraq, said he fought "and nearly died to secure rights for others that I myself was not free to enjoy."