Talks held on altering 'don't ask, don't tell'

By Will Dunham
Reuters / May 11, 2009
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WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is holding "preliminary discussions" about changing the military's prohibition against openly gay service members, national security adviser James Jones said yesterday.

President Obama pledged during the presidential campaign to change the policy. But the issue has been on the back burner as the White House tackles other issues such as the economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jones said he does not know whether the policy, known as "don't ask, don't tell," will be overturned, and indicated a cautious approach.

"We have a lot on our plate right now. It has to be teed up at the right time . . . to do this the right way," Jones said on the ABC program "This Week."

Asked if the policy will be overturned, Jones said, "I don't know. . . . The president has said that he is in favor of that. We'll just wait. We'll have to wait and see."

The policy does not allow the military to ask service members about their sexual orientation, but allows the military to expel people who make it known that they are gay.

The policy was passed by Congress in 1993. It was fashioned as a compromise between those who wanted to preserve the previous outright prohibition on gays in the military and those who wanted to allow gays to serve.

"We have had preliminary discussions with the leadership of the Pentagon," Jones said.

"It will be discussed in the way the president does things, which is: be very deliberative, very thoughtful, seeking out all sides on the issue," added Jones, a retired general.