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Alaska delegation split on 'don't ask, don't tell'

The US House of Representatives is nearing a vote on whether to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell.'

By Associated Press / May 27, 2010

From left to right, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, Lt. Dan Choi, Cpl. Evelyn Thomas, Capt. Jim Pietrangelo II, Cadet Mara Boyd and Petty Officer Larry Whitt, handcuffed themselves to the fence outside the White House during a protest for gay-rights in Washington, Tuesday, April, 2010. The group demand that President Obama keep his promise to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell.'

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska

The three members of Alaska's congressional delegation have taken different positions on the question of whether to overturn the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that requires gays serving in the military to hide their sexual orientation.

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The U.S. House of Representatives is nearing a vote on whether to repeal the 1993 law. Such a policy change, however, would take not take effect until the Pentagon completes a study on its ramifications.

Julie Hasquet, spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, said the Democrat supports the approach, saying the Defense Department "will have time to certify repeal can be achieved consistent with the military's standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention."

The other members of the delegation are less supportive.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, objects to having a vote before the study is finished.

"We should respect the request from the Secretary of Defense regarding the study and wait until the report is done, consider its conclusions and render an informed vote," she said in a statement released Wednesday.

"We've received several hundred constituent letters in recent weeks, with the vast majority saying don't repeal the law."

Alaska's lone congressman, Republican Rep. Don Young, opposes a repeal, with or without the study.

"The congressman does not believe that the military is a place for promoting social change, which is why he supports the current policy, as it focuses on the performance of an individual, not their sexual orientation," Young spokeswoman Merideth Kenny said in an e-mail.

Alaska has a strong military presence, with major U.S. Army and Air Force bases. The Alaskan Command estimates that there are 20,000 active-duty service members from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines assigned to the state, as well as 4,700 guard and reserve members.

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