Ending Don't Ask Don't Tell Raises More Questions
The repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell is on track to take full effect among military troops in the fall. Training for a new policy allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military is underway. But, some are concerned not enough is being done to bring equality within the troops. After 28 years as a Navy Officer, Robert Haas retired. Haas who is gay, served as a commander in the Navy Supply Corps that fed, clothed, housed and transported cargo for the armed forces. He never revealed his sexual orientation while in the military, but he says some of his fellow troops knew. "It was easier for me to hide things in the 70's, and now everything is on Facebook. There's Twitter. You put pictures out there, they follow you wherever you go," explained Haas. Defense Secretary Robert Gates oversees a three part plan on ending Don't Ask Don't Tell. The plan will overhaul applicable military personnel policy and benefits, provide training for top brass and military chaplains and formally instruct the troops on the ban's repeal. Military officials in central Ohio confirmed that they have been holding training sessions at recruiting centers for their employees. They declined to provide details and refused a request for an interview. Army Captain Scott Lee who works in military recruiting efforts in Columbus says regardless of the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell, he will continue to quote "treat everyone with dignity and respect." Retired Navy Officer Haas says he also wants everyone to be treated equally. "We just have to make sure that the military understands that no one is trying to put an agenda on them. Let everybody do their job," Haas said. Resistance to ending the ban on gays has been coming not from the troops, but from members of Congress. The House Armed Services Committee passed amendments last week that could delay repeal of the ban. The amendments if passed bar members of the armed forces and Department of Defense employees from assisting or performing same-sex marriages; and restate language within the Defense of Marriage Act to include members of the armed forces. Zeke Stokes is Communications Director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network or SLDN that provides legal services to those effected by Don't Ask Don't Tell. "These amendments to delay and derail repeal which is really what they would do are quite frankly nothing more than a partisan political attempt to interject the same sex marriage debate and other unrelated social issues into the defense spending bill where they quite frankly have no place," Stokes said. Stokes adds without benefits for spouses, gay, lesbian and bisexual service people will still face discrimination. "If spouses aren't recognized and or adopted children of those spouses or biological children of those spouses are not recognized, that could have a direct impact on my ability to access federal or military housing," said Stokes. Retired Navy Officer Haas has many questions. "Are they going to recognize a male partner in the military as a partner, a spouse or not? That's the question," Haas said. President Obama since taking office two years ago, has expanded federal rights and benefits for gays and lesbians who work as civilians within the government. How far those rights will extend to gays in the military has not been determined. Last week, civilian workers at the Defense Supply Center Columbus in Whitehall began to take on-line training in preparation for the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Under the repeal statute the ban will be overturned 60 days after the president, the secretary of defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all certify that repeal will not affect the recruitment, retention, or readiness of the U.S. military.