WASHINGTON — Discharging a gay person for violating the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy will draw unprecedented scrutiny under new orders from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is already pushing to repeal the ban on gays serving openly.
Guidelines to be announced today call for testimony from third parties to be given under oath. The discharge of enlisted personnel must be approved by officers who hold a rank equivalent to a one-star general or above. The goal is to ensure that the law is applied fairly and consistently across the military and that flimsy testimony from third parties is eliminated. The plan is considered a stopgap measure until Congress decides whether to repeal the 1993 law.
President Barack Obama has said the ban unfairly punishes gays and has called on Congress to lift it. Gates agrees but says he wants to move slowly and has ordered an internal assessment, due Dec. 1, on how the Defense Department could lift the ban without damaging morale or hurting recruitment.
In the meantime, Gates has said he wants to find ways to implement the law more "humanely" and prevent cases in which gay service members are outed by someone carrying a grudge.
"Service members would still be leaving the services under 'don't ask, don't tell' every day, so what we need is repeal," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director, Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund.