House Speaker Supports Ending Gay Ban

HOUSE Speaker Thomas Foley (D) of Washington calls the press "totally preoccupied" with homosexuals in the military, and suggests the issue is being "hyperventilated" by reporters.

Despite a torrent of controversy over President Clinton's decision to ban discrimination by the military against gays, Mr. Foley predicts Mr. Clinton will emerge from this battle strengthened. (Gay rights fight, Page 3.)

At a breakfast meeting with reporters, Foley strongly defended the president's move to support gay rights. As he explained:

"It doesn't change, in any respect, the requirements of military discipline [or] the highest level of conduct that's expected of all service people."

The president's policy would halt the questioning of new military recruits to screen out gays and lesbians, and would stop the practice of discharging military men and women because of homosexual orientation.

Foley, noting that up to 200,000 service personnel may be gay, compared Clinton's effort to break down discrimination to earlier efforts to integrate blacks into the military after World War II. He said: "General [Omar] Bradley told President [Harry] Truman that you couldn't integrate the services racially. It would disrupt order and discipline. It would destroy the effectiveness of fighting forces. It would interfere with the privacy of people in the service. All those things were said. They seem ludicr ous today."

Foley complained that no one asks him about really important issues, like Sears firing 50,000 workers.

"So what should the government do about Sears?" a reporter asked.

"Nothing. But thank you for the question," Foley responded.

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