NEW YORK — More than 1,000 retired military officers, including several who were top commanders, are urging President Barack Obama and Congress to maintain the law that bars gays from serving openly in the armed forces.
Obama is consulting with the Pentagon on the issue and says he supports eventual repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which prohibits gays in the military from being open about their sexual orientation. A bill that would allow gays to serve openly has been introduced in Congress.
A statement issued by the retired officers Tuesday said passage of that bill "would undermine recruiting and retention, impact leadership at all levels, have adverse effects on the willingness of parents who lend their sons and daughters to military service, and eventually break the All-Volunteer Force."
Among the signatories were Gen. Carl E. Mundy Jr., a former commandant of the Marine Corps; Adm. Leighton W. Smith, a former commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe; Gen. Charles A. Horner, who commanded U.S. aerial forces during the 1990-91 Gulf War; and Adm. Jerome L. Johnson, a former vice chief of Naval Operations.
The retired officers said they strongly supported the principle that "homosexuality is incompatible with military service" and warned that repeal of current law could jeopardize morale and "unit cohesion."
The statement was criticized by Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group seeking equal treatment of gays in the military.
"The signers of this petition are mired in the fears and politics of the past," Sarvis said.