(CN) – On the heels of a Pentagon study that found more than two-thirds of American troops would not object to openly gay service members, the White House endorsed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“The reality is that gay men and lesbians are already serving in today’s military,” according to the Pentagon report released Tuesday. “The other reality, revealed in the course of this review, is that much of the force recognizes this.”
President Barack Obama urged the Senate to follow the lead of the House of Representatives, which already passed legislation approving the repeal.
“Today’s report confirms that a strong majority of our military men and women and their families – more than two thirds – are prepared to serve alongside Americans who are openly gay and lesbian,” Obama said in a statement Tuesday. “This report also confirms that, by every measure – from unit cohesion to recruitment and retention to family readiness – we can transition to a new policy in a responsible manner that ensures our military strength and national security.”
Sixty votes are needed in the Senate to start debate on the 2011 defense authorization bill, which contains a provision to repeal the ban on gays in the military.
If the policy is not repealed before the 112th Congress takes hold, Obama’s cabinet will have a harder time getting votes with six fewer Democrats in power.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates in March appointed the department’s General Counsel, Jeh Johnson, and Army Gen. Carter Ham to lead a comprehensive review of the policy, which was passed 17 years ago this week. The department’s study solicited opinions from nearly 400,000 service members and received more than 115,000 responses.
“Based on all that we saw and heard, our assessment is that when coupled with the prompt implementation of the recommendations we offer, the risk of repeal to overall military effectiveness is low,” Ham said at a Pentagon news briefing announcing the results of the study.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the matter is ripe for redress since the courts have started to weigh in, according to a transcript of the presentation he gave Tuesday with Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“I believe this is a matter of some urgency because, as we have seen in the past year, the federal courts are increasingly becoming involved in this issue,” Gates said in the press conference. “Just a few weeks ago, one lower court ruling forced the department into an abrupt series of changes that were no doubt confusing and distracting to men and women in the ranks. It is only a matter of time before the federal courts are drawn once more into the fray, with the very real possibility that this change would be imposed immediately by judicial fiat — by far the most disruptive and damaging scenario I can imagine, and one of the most hazardous to military morale, readiness and battlefield performance.”