MILITARY -- March 25, 2010 at 12:34 PM ET
Military to Make It More Difficult to Expel Gays From Its Ranks
In a major policy shift, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced at a news conference Thursday that the military will make it more difficult for gay service members to be expelled as part of a broader review of the "don't ask, don't tell policy."
Under the guidelines, only higher-ranking officers can launch an inquiry about the violation of the policy, which bans openly gay people from serving in the military, and the guidelines tighten the rules for what evidence is allowed in those inquiries. Gates said the new rules also ban the use of confidential information about soldiers from consideration in expelling a service member.
The changes go into effect immediately. Click here for a summary of the changes.
"I believe these changes represent an important improvement in the way the current law is put into practice, above all by providing a greater measure of common sense and common decency to a process for handling what are difficult and complex issues for all involved," Gates said.
Gates also said the cases of all soldiers now in the process of being expelled from the service would have to be reviewed and the new regulations applied, unless the soldier decided they wanted to be separated from the military.
"As of my signature right after this meeting, every case that is currently still open will be dealt with under these new regulations. So they will be re-initiated by a flag rank officer. A person who is in the process can opt out of that, can in effect say, I want to be -- I want to have the proceedings carried forward under the new regulations in terms of what kind of information can be allowed, but I don't want to start the whole process over. But that's up to the servicemember who is being -- who's involved in the proceedings. But as far as the system is concerned, as far as the services are concerned, every case that is open as of this morning will be re-initiated and evaluated under the -- under the new regulations that I've just set forth."
The changes come as Congress considers whether to repeal the law, put in place during the Clinton administration.
President Barack Obama has ordered a review of the policy that is due in December and has said that he would like to see the ban on openly gay service members to be repealed. Secretary Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Sstaff, testified in February to the Senate Armed Services committee about President Obama's review of the policy. Both Gates and Mullen said they support a repeal of the ban.
You can also watch Ray Suarez's June 2009 report on the military's effort to review the policy here: