Key Dem wants to pause discharges of gay service members

Congress could pass a limited moratorium on the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy this spring, a key chairwoman said Monday.

Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Military Personnel Subcommittee on the House Armed Services Committee, said that she hopes to include a measure prohibiting discharges for gay and lesbian members of the armed forces who are outed by colleagues.

"It's important that the Congress does act in terms of the policy itself," Davis said during an appearance on KPBS San Diego public radio.

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Davis, whose committee has jurisdiction over the controversial policy, said that while the military conducts a review as to how to repeal its exclusion on gay and lesbian members, one of the first actions Congress would take is to stop discharges of members who are outed by others.

"I'm certainly hopeful that we might be able to do that in the defense authorization bill that is coming forward," she said. "So that would really be the first act of the Congress -- to just put a hold on any discharges."

Davis said that  30 to 40 percent -- if not more -- of discharges from the military because of a servicemember's sexuality come after a colleague outs that person.

She said that the hold, which she characterized as a "limited moratorium" on discharges, would be easier for lawmakers to move presently than a total repeal of the ban on gays and lesbians.

"I suspect it would be easier to get this kind of limited moratorium through with more support," she said.

The defense authorization bill, Davis predicted, would make its way through Congress "as early as late spring and perhaps into the summer," depending on how the congressional calendar unfolds.