'Don't ask, don't tell' changes announced

March 25, 2010 at 11:35 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 25 (UPI) -- The Pentagon Thursday said it will relax enforcement of the "don't ask, don't tell" law that bars homosexuals from serving openly in the U.S. military.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the military no longer will investigate sexual orientation of military personnel based on anonymous complaints, will restrict third-party testimony and require that all cases be reviewed by high-ranking officials. Under the new policy the threshold will be raised for determining the appropriate information required to open a "credible inquiry" into whether service men or women have engaged in homosexual behavior, CNN reported.

Gates made the announcement at the Pentagon with Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying the change -- which will take effect in 30 days -- is a matter of "common sense" and "common decency."

"These changes reflect some of the insights we have gained over 17 years of implementing the current law, including the need for consistency, oversight and clear standards," Gates said.

Current law, enacted in 1993 during President Bill Clinton's administration, allows homosexuals to serve as long as they hide their sexual orientation.

Gates asked Pentagon lawyers to review whether the Defense Department legally has the discretion to enforce the "don't ask, don't tell" law more loosely after President Barack Obama urged its repeal in his State of the Union address in January.

During congressional committee hearings on "don't ask, don't tell," Gates and Mullen said they agreed with Obama that steps should be taken to prepare the military for the law's eventual repeal. Gates said Thursday the Defense Department will have the RAND Corp. update its 1993 study of the issue.

More than 13,500 service members have been discharged under the policy since 1993, Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., said.

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