The commander-in-chief and the civilian and uniformed leaders of the military all favor letting gays and lesbians serve openly. Still standing in the way is the “Don’t ask, don’t tell’’ law that keeps them from doing so. Congress should repeal it, even though the Defense department still has not fully planned how it would handle the change. The repeal bill now before Congress would solve that problem by postponing the change until after Dec. 1, by which time the Pentagon will have completed its review.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had wanted Congress to wait until after the military completes its planning. This delay, however, could put any vote off until after the mid-term elections, when advocates of open service by gays and lesbians could lose some congressional supporters. Waiting until after the Pentagon has dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s could keep “Don’t ask, don’t tell’’ on the books a long time.
Since the end of World War II, the services have integrated blacks into their units, absorbed higher numbers of women, and switched from a conscription-based Army to an all-volunteer force. There have been bumps in the road with all these changes. But with good leadership and discipline, the acceptance of uncloseted gays and lesbians should present no special problems — especially among younger troops who have grown up in a country more comfortable with gays and lesbians than their generals and admirals. Congress should make “Don’t ask, don’t tell’’ a finished chapter from the country’s less tolerant past.