Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

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KWWL (CEDAR FALLS) -- National lawmakers are reviewing a controversial military policy. In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for Congress to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Defense Secretary Robert Bates said he's prepared to follow the president's orders.

When "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was implemented by then-President Bill Clinton, it was seen as a compromise between the LGBT community and conservative groups. The government won't ask, and homosexuals won't tell. But, 20 years later, many argue times have changed, and the policy needs to change.

"This year, I will work with congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do," President Obama declared in his State of the Union address.

It's a bold statement, but for those in the gay and lesbian community, it was a breath of fresh air.

"I think the repealing of don't ask don't tell is an excellent step toward where our country is going. Because it is going this way, whether people want it to or not," said President of UNI PROUD, Sara Richardson.

It's no surprise, many lawmakers do not agree with activists like Richardson. This summer, Republican Senator Charles Grassley told reporters the military is a voluntary organization - if you don't like the rules, you don't have to join. Others say the decision would create a threat to security on the battlefield.

"Persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would very likely create an unacceptable risk," said Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss.

But, as an openly gay man and member of UNI PROUD, Kyle Woollums believes this theory is unfounded. He argued, if you follow this thinking, a straight man and woman serving side-by-side would create the exact same threat.

"I am here to serve my country, to fulfill the mission at hand, not, the guy sitting next to me is attractive," he explained.

Both Woollums and Richardson believe just talking about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," shows a major shift in our country's mentality.

"Now that we're able to discuss something that relates to sexuality on a national level, hopefully that will open up discussion for marriage and other questions of civil rights," said Woollums.

Secretary Gates is taking a year-long look at how repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would affect those in uniform. He's also ordering a shorter study to implement better treatment of gay service members.

Although top Pentagon officials say they're ready to change their policies, it's up to Congress to change the law.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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