(CNSNews.com) - With 2008 and the presidential primaries just days away, homosexual activists are engaged in a push to repeal or remove the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
"Don't Ask Don't Tell has not worked," said Steve Ralls, director of communications for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). "It is not serving the interests of the armed forces, or the interests of gay Americans who want to serve, so it is now time to take the next step and have Congress send a clear message that open service is what they now intend."
On December 1, one day after the 14th anniversary of the implementation of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," SLDN kicked off a weekend-long series of promotional efforts held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. -- all designed to do away with the military policy, which allows homosexuals to serve as long as they don't publicly "out" themselves.
"That included an exhibit of 12,000 American flags on the Mall, in commemoration of the 12,000 service members dismissed after Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It also included a prayer service on the Mall, and a community forum on gays in the military," Ralls told Cybercast News Service.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell also has become a focus of media interest. Last weekend, CBS' "60 Minutes" featured a piece on Darren Manzella, a self-professed homosexual Army sergeant just back from Kuwait. The piece alleged that Manzella's commander had decided not to dismiss him because he was too valuable.
"The '60 Minutes' story was a wonderful segment in that it highlighted the reality of what's beginning to happen under Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Ralls said.
"As '60 Minutes' pointed out, more and more commands are appreciating their lesbian and gay service members -- and retaining them despite the ban on their service. That sends a clear signal to Congress, which says that it follows the lead of military leaders that the time has come to repeal the law."
But Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, called the "60 Minutes" piece "a relentless public service campaign for gay activists."
"It went beyond suggesting that the Department of Defense and the military were being hypocritical in not dismissing service members who are known to be homosexual," Donnelly told Cybercast News Service. "They dramatized this point by showing videotape of Sgt. Manzella 'making out' with his boyfriend in very graphic ways."
The report was just "another way" the media have helped advance the campaign to end the ban on gays in the military, she said.
"Newspapers like The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today never miss publishing any news release that comes out from the advocates for gays in the military, no matter how often it happens," Donnelly added.
Donnelly, meanwhile, said she agrees with homosexual activists on the need to rescind Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Homosexual conduct should not be tolerated at all by the military, she said.
"I don't know anyone who can defend Don't Ask Don't Tell," Donnelly told Cybercast News Service. "Anybody who understands this issue is opposed to it."
The long-time military activist said the law that Congress passed (10 USC 654) bans homosexual conduct in the military, pure and simple.
"That law codifies a concept: 'Homosexuality is incompatible with military service.' It has been upheld as constitutional several times."
In fact, Congress held extensive hearings considering the possibility of adopting a Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and rejected it in favor of a total ban.
"They realized that it was not workable," she said. "So Congress rejected Don't Ask, Don't Tell and codified regulations in place way before Bill Clinton ever took office. The problem began when Bill Clinton decided to impose enforcement regulations that are different from the law."
Ralls strongly disagrees about the law's intent. Don't Ask, Don't Tell, he said, was merely a transitional policy until homosexuals could be fully integrated into the armed services.
"Its intent was to allow lesbian and gay personnel to serve in the armed forces, as long as they remained silent," he said. "The Department pf Defense, as it always does, devised regulations to implement the congressional mandate. Gen. Colin Powell, President Clinton and members of Congress were pretty clear during the debate in 1993 that their desired result was to end witch hunts, to end harassment and to allow gays to serve, albeit in a closeted environment."
Retired Army Lt. Col Bob Maginnis, an analyst on military issues for several major broadcast networks, including Fox News, said Congress clearly intended the law to protect military culture by barring sodomy.
"It says that some people are just not eligible to be in the military, it's just that simple," Maginnis said. "It says the military is different than the civilian world. It says that in conditions of forced intimacy -- that's a phrase actually in the law -- that persons should not have to reveal themselves to persons who might be sexually attracted to them."
In fact, the law makes homosexuality just one item in a long list of characteristics that disqualifies people from serving in the military.
"The military is an incredibly discriminatory organization," Maginnis said. "If it weren't it wouldn't be effective. It has to discriminate, not only on sexual proclivities, but on those with serious medical conditions, against people who are too tall, too short, not smart enough and are color-blind. If we look, the list of reasons for discriminating against someone is 35 pages long."
Activists on both sides, meanwhile, hope the issue of homosexuals in the military will rise to the top in the 2008 primaries.
"The media always ask the question as, 'Do you support Don't Ask Don't Tell,'" Donnelly said. "I wish that the presidential candidates would make it clear that they support the law, rather than just going along with that catchphrase."
Ralls, however, predicts that the days of Don't Ask, Don't Tell are numbered.
"How many days remain depends on the political climate in Washington, and quite frankly depend on what happens in the 2008 election," he said. "But inevitably, the law will be repealed."
The leading Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, all favor repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
The leading Republican presidential candidates, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee and Sen. John McCain of Arizona all say they support the policy.
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