Washington, Nov.21 : US President-elect Barack Obama will not move for months, and perhaps not until 2010, to ask Congress to end the military's decades-old ban on open homosexuals in the ranks.
According to two people who have advised the Obama transition team on this issue, though repealing the ban was an Obama campaign promise, Obama first wants to confer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his new political appointees at the Pentagon to reach a consensus and then present legislation to Congress. "I think 2009 is about foundation building and reaching consensus," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. The group supports military personnel targeted under the ban.
Sarvis told The Washington Times that he has held "informal discussions" with the Obama transition team on how the new president should proceed on the potentially explosive issue.
The incoming administration is well aware of how President Clinton botched the same issue 15 years ago. Shortly after taking office in 1993, the president ordered the Pentagon to rescind the regulation that excluded gays. On Capitol Hill, Republicans, and some leading Democrats, including then-Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn of Georgia, objected. Retired military officers and a number of pro-military conservative activist groups joined the fight.
Mr. Clinton backed off. Congress ended up enacting the ban into law as part of U.S. Title 10 that regulates the military. As a compromise, the White House and congressional leaders wrote a new policy known as "don't ask, don't tell." Under it, gay service members must keep their sexuality private or face expulsion. About 12,500 people have been discharged under the policy.
Today, gay activists cite national polls that show public sentiment, unlike in 1993, support removing the ban.