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U.S. Senate May Take Up DADT Repeal

July 12, 2010

ST. LOUIS - Missouri's gay and lesbian community is waiting and watching as Congress heads back to Capitol Hill this week following the Fourth of July recess. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" could take center stage this week as the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on whether to repeal the policy that prevents openly-gay Americans from serving in the military. The Pentagon has e-mailed 400,000 servicemen and women a survey to study the impact on troop morale and readiness if the ban is repealed.

Former Missouri Airman Judson Smith of St. Louis, who was anonymously "outed" and subsequently discharged in 2002, sees "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" as a form of discrimination. He disagrees with those who say ending the ban would disrupt military unit cohesion, and he likens this situation to President Harry Truman's racial desegregation of the military decades ago.

"The same arguments that were used 60 years ago they're still trying to use today, to not repeal this discriminatory policy and replace it with something that is not discriminatory."

The House in May passed the National Defense Authorization bill, which includes the amendment to repeal the ban. Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill is in favor of repeal, but it's unclear how Senator Kit Bond will vote on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Smith says the current policy isn't working. He says he was asked by the investigating officer in his case about whether he was gay, which violates "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rules.

"And it put me in a position of my integrity and one of the military's core values is integrity first. And how can I have integrity to serve my country, if I'm going to lie about who I am?"

The military in 25 countries, including Israel, Canada and Great Britain, have lifted their own bans on gay troops, reportedly without major difficulty.

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO