Alexi Giannoulias said last week that he doesn't argue with the
Obama administration's decision to delay action. Three other
candidates, however, said they think the policy should be dropped
"These are patriotic Americans who should not be discriminated
against," said one Democrat, Chicago's former inspector general
David Hoffman. "While this policy change needs to be coordinated
with military leaders, it should be done as soon as possible."
Meanwhile, two Republican candidates said they support keeping the
policy in place.
Mark Kirk, a member of Congress and commander in the Naval Reserves,
said in an e-mail that he supports "don't ask, don't tell." He
wouldn't answer any further questions about his thinking on the
Attorney Patrick Hughes said he backs the policy because many
military leaders believe allowing gays to serve openly would
"Don't ask, don't tell," which was adopted under President Bill
Clinton, says gays and lesbians can be kicked out of the military
solely for their sexual orientation, but military leaders are not
supposed to investigate troops' private lives. About 13,000 service
members have been discharged under the policy since it was adopted
President Barack Obama campaigned on a promise to end the policy, a
promise he repeated Saturday in a speech to the Human Rights
Campaign, a gay civil rights advocacy group.
But his administration has said several times that it won't take
action anytime soon. National security adviser James Jones said last
weekend that Obama has other pressing issues and will address gays
in the military "at the right time."
Giannoulias, the state
treasurer, said last week that the country shouldn't turn away
people volunteering to serve in the military, particularly when
fighting two wars. "There are a lot of good people we lose because
of this law," he said.
He didn't object to Obama's decision to wait.
"I'm not going to try to figure out what timeline is best for the
administration," Giannoulias said.
Other Democrats were more emphatic.
"Now is the time to do it," said attorney Jacob Meister. "It's an
outdated policy, and it's really a matter of civil rights, too."
[to top of second column]
Cheryle Robinson Jackson, former head of the Chicago Urban League,
believes the "unjust and ineffective" policy should end immediately,
said spokesman Bob Kettlewell.
Kettlewell noted a new report that found women were far more likely
than men to be kicked out of the military under "don't ask, don't
Women accounted for 15 percent of all active-duty and reserve
members of the military but more than one-third of the 619 people
discharged last year for their sexual orientation, according to the
Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
And a new article in the Pentagon publication Joint Force Quarterly
concludes that having openly gay troops in the ranks will not hurt
combat readiness. "Based on this research, it is not time for the
administration to re-examine the issue; rather it is time for the
administration to examine how to implement the repeal of the ban,"
says the article written by Air Force Col. Om Prakash.
Rick Garcia, political director of the gay rights group Equality
Illinois, said ending "don't ask, don't tell" is a top priority. He
called it unfair to people who want to serve their country and
detrimental to national security.
He said all Senate candidate should be pushing for quick action by
the Obama administration.
"These Senate candidates, every one of them, need to get a backbone
and stand up for what's right," Garcia said.
Hughes, one of the Republican Senate candidates, called "don't ask,
don't tell" an imperfect policy but said there is no viable
alternative. Kirk, although he wouldn't answer questions, noted in
his e-mail that the policy began under Clinton and Colin Powell,
then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Peter LaBarbera, president of the Illinois-based Americans for Truth
About Homosexuality, said he was pleased to see Kirk joining more
conservative politicians in opposing any change in the policy on
gays in the military. LaBarbera argued that letting gays serve
openly would hurt morale and discourage enlistment.
"In a time of war," he said, "it's preposterous to think of making
such a change."
[Associated Press; By CHRISTOPHER WILLS]
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