Army secretary won’t discharge soldiers who privately tell him they're gay

Secretary of the Army John McHugh on Wednesday said he would not pursue discharges against soldiers who tell him privately that they are gay.

McHugh said he has talked to openly gay soldiers as part of assessing the force's opinion on the repeal of a controversial law that bans openly gay people from serving in the military.

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Under the current law, known as “Don't ask, don’t tell,” service members who declare that they are gay would have to be discharged, but McHugh indicated he would not pursue any discharges against soldiers who make those statements in private conversations with him.

“I have had men and women in uniform approach me and declare that they were gay and give me their opinion,” McHugh told reporters at a defense writers breakfast. “I don’t consider, under the current way forward, that an open and honest discussion that is required in the secretary’s directive is an outing.”

President Barack Obama wants to see the "Don't ask, don't tell" law scrapped, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has tasked military service leaders with assessing the force’s position on implementing a repeal of the Clinton-era law.

Because the Pentagon is in the process of reviewing how to implement a potential change of the law, McHugh indicated that he is looking the other way on discharges of service members who in the course of discussions about “Don't ask, don't tell" choose to state that they are gay.

McHugh said that in order to have a frank discussion about the issue, it is important to build confidence among soldiers so that they can speak their minds.

“A reasonable assumption is that when engaged in the process of assessing the force’s temperature, the secretary of the Army is probably not going to go out and initiate an action against an individual soldier who in the conversation about ‘How [do] you feel about "Don’t ask, don’t tell"?' identifies themselves as gay.”

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