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Congress delays debate on gay ban

Jun. 26, 2009 - 11:58AM   |   Last Updated: Jun. 26, 2009 - 11:58AM  |  
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Congress seems intent on delaying any debate on repealing the military's ban on open service by gays until next year.

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Congress seems intent on delaying any debate on repealing the military's ban on open service by gays until next year.

As the House passed its version of the 2010 defense authorization bill, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee talked about having hearings later this year on the possible repeal of the so-called "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" policy that has been in effect since the Clinton administration.

The House Rules Committee blocked consideration by the House of Representatives of two amendments to the defense bill that would have attempted to change the policy, which prompted Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., to promise there will be hearings on the issue.

The Democratic chairman and ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, speaking at a Thursday press conference about their committee's version of the 2010 bill, said they didn't think Congress should address the military's policies on gays until service members are surveyed on their attitudes about serving alongside gays and lesbians.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the committee's ranking Republican, said a survey should be conducted under authority of the joint chiefs to determine if troops and military leaders are more accepting today of gays in the ranks. But Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee chairman, said a survey alone wouldn't be enough to make a change in law. "It is going to take some persuasive leadership," he said.

A repeal of the military's gay ban is under consideration because it is one of the pledges made by President Barack Obama during the presidential campaign. Obama did not promise an immediate change because the president doesn't have the power to change a law.

Seventy-seven members of the House of Representatives wrote Obama last week asking that he, at least, stop discharging people for homosexuality until Congress addresses the repeal. However, White House officials said the administration intends to keep enforcing the law as long as it remains in effect.

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