The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday said he opposes a deal struck between the White House and Congress to allow gays to serve openly in the military.
On Monday, Congress and the White House reached a deal on repealing the "Don't ask, don't tell policy" against openly gay service members. The compromise would allow legislation to be passed, but implementation would only occur once a Pentagon panel concludes a study of the repeal.
“My position on this issue has been clear — I support the current policy and I will oppose any amendment to repeal ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,'" Skelton said in a statement. "I hope my colleagues will avoid jumping the gun and wait for DOD [the Department of Defense] to complete its work."
The White House and Congress have come under pressure from gay rights
groups to lift the ban. Activist groups have expected preliminary votes
on the proposal as early as Thursday. Skelton's comments could deal a blow to passage in the House.
The deal was intended to encourage lawmakers who have expressed reservations about voting before the review to get on board with a repeal. The Missouri Democrat has long opposed getting rid of the ban and was one of the architects of "Don't ask, don't tell."
The lawmaker's support has traditionally been hard to get; he helped author the policy during the Clinton administration as a compromise for letting gays serve, albeit secretly.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday through a spokesman that he prefers the review to conclude before there is legislation, but said he would accept a bill anyway.
Skelton said he agrees with Gates that the Defense Department should finish reviewing the policy before Congress acts.
"In a statement today, the Pentagon indicated that ideally, Secretary Gates continues to prefer that the Department complete this review before Congress considers legislation," he said. "This is a reasonable and responsible request that I respect."