Dems Vow to Repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Rule

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - During a Democratic presidential debate sponsored Thursday by the liberal Human Rights Campaign, all the candidates pledged to repeal the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy that bars homosexuals from openly serving in the military. But some say a repeal would be a "social experiment" inappropriate for the military in wartime.

"Our next president can play a leading role in ending 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" said Steve Ralls, director of communications for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a watchdog group opposed to the policy. "The Democratic candidates for the White House understand that our national security, and our national commitment to equality and opportunity, are both strengthened by repealing this law."

But Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues at the conservative Concerned Women for America (CWA), said that "the military is no place for radical social experimentation."

Former President Bill Clinton pushed in 1993 for openly homosexual people to be allowed to join the military. But when faced with political pressure, he compromised on a regulation that allowed homosexuals in the military if they did not state their sexuality: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." This regulation is not part of the U.S. Code or federal law.

"Our men and women in uniform, and their families and loved ones, are ready for a commander in chief who puts qualification ahead of discrimination and military readiness ahead of outdated prejudice," Ralls said. "The time has come to topple this un-American law, and we are proud to have these candidates join us in the fight to lift the ban."

The Republican presidential candidates have all voiced their support for the law.

In June, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani declared, "At a time of war, you don't make fundamental changes like this," and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney added, "This is not the time to put in place a major change, a social experiment, in the middle of a war going on."

But on Thursday, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) said during the Democratic presidential debate: "I want to get [the repeal] done when I'm president. I want to do it, and I want to be successful. We're talking about what steps we can take to lay the groundwork so that when we do have a change in the White House ... we will be able to move on that."

"It is one of my highest priorities," she added.

Clinton noted that "we need to judge people based on conduct and not status. I think we will lay the groundwork, and then, when I am president, we will get it done, and I'm looking forward to that."

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), a sponsor of legislation to repeal the policy, said: "We should ensure that all men and women who wish to serve in the armed forces are allowed to do so by repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'"

"We should all be grateful that Sen. Clinton has recognized the need to repeal certain initiatives her husband spearheaded during his administration," quipped CWA's Matt Barber. "Apparently, allowing homosexual men and women in the military to advertise their chosen lifestyle represents the only 'troop surge' liberals will support."

"It's very disturbing that liberals are preparing, during a time of war, to ramp up efforts to inject their San Francisco brand of moral relativism into one of the last sound corners of a morally misguided and politically correct society," Barber told Cybercast News Service.

"When you're enlisted in the military, there is no privacy," stated Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council. "In the Marine Corps - to keep them focused on the mission - they keep the men with men and the women with women. They are there for a purpose.

"When you enter into the mix men hitting on men, it's a distraction, it's destructive to the morale of the unit, it's not why they're there," he told Cybercast News Service. "They're not there for recreational sex."

"Because of liberal politicians, our fighting men and women face possible cutbacks in funding and other threatened roadblocks in their ability to execute the war on terror," added Barber. "It would be shameful if they additionally had to brace themselves to absorb the destructive impact of leftist social experiments gone awry."

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