Soldiers can be discharged for gay marriage - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Soldiers can be discharged for gay marriage

IOWA CITY (KWWL) -- It was just over a month ago the state supreme court ruled Iowa's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional -- legalizing same-sex marriage in our state.

However, a federal law approved by Congress in 1993 prohibits homosexuals from serving in the military and trumps the court's decision.  It's commonly known as the "Don't ask, Don't tell" rule -- allowing gays and lesbians to serve, as long as they're not open about their sexual preference.

That means Iowa National Guard soldiers can be involuntarily discharged because of their sexual orientation.  The Guard says it will continue to follow the federal law, but one county official told us it may be growing stale.

Johnson County Recorder Kim Painter has never agreed with the "don't ask don't tell" rule.   But for her, it's not all about gay rights.

"It weakens our defense," said Painter.

Painter, who is openly gay, says more than 10,000 soldiers have been discharged because of the policy.  She believes it's fundamentally flawed because it eliminates talented soldiers from the military's ranks.

"You never want to take any percentage of star players off your team," Painter said.

An Iowa National Guard spokesman says whether the policy is seen as harmful or not, it all comes down to one simple matter.

"We are a federal military organization, and therefore, we are required to follow federal law, whatever that law may be in a particular area," Lt. Col. Gregory Hapgood said.  "It has nothing to with whether somebody agrees with it or not.  If it's federal law and the president signs it, that's the rule we will follow."

Painter says as long as same-sex marriages are open public record, they'll be at odds with one of the country's most controversial laws.

Online Reporter: Brady Smith

Online Producer:  Dani Blecha

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