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Opinion

How to end 'Don't ask, don't tell'

The policy that keeps gays from serving openly undermines military readiness and does not make sense practically, financially, or morally. So what is holding the administration back?

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There is also no credible evidence supporting the underlying arguments for retaining the law – namely that it would undermine unit cohesion and military effectiveness. In fact, government studies over the past 50 years demonstrate just the opposite.

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Moreover, 24 other countries, including our closest allies, such as Britain, Israel, and Canada, allow openly gay people to serve. In fact, the British, whose military is most similar in design and function to our own, found that six months after they were forced to change their policy by the European Court of Human Rights, sexual orientation became a nonissue.

In other words, allowing openly gay men and women to serve proved more difficult in theory than in practice. Even an architect of "Don't ask, don't tell," Rear Adm. John Hutson, has acknowledged that the policy was "based on nothing" but "our own prejudices and our own fears."

Since this policy undermines military readiness and does not make sense practically, financially, or morally, what is holding the administration back?

This inaction appears to be due to the belief that there exists no road map for repealing and then implementing the new policy once DADT is overturned. However, this is not the case.

The president should begin by signing an executive order banning further military separations based on DADT and sending a legislative proposal on repealing DADT and changing the Uniformed Code of Military Justice to Congress. While Congress is debating the issue he should form a panel on how to implement the repeal, including what military regulations need to be changed. Once the law is changed, the administration will need to follow up to ensure that the armed forces implement the policy changes.

We expect military members to defend not only our country, but the Constitution and the individual liberties guaranteed under the Constitution, and we should not send those service members an official "mixed message" that some of the liberties they are prepared to die for are ones they shouldn't accept within their own ranks.

Lawrence J. Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, served as assistant secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration. Sean E. Duggan and Laura Conley are researchers at the center. The three are coauthors of the Center for American Progress report, "Ending 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' "

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