Gates to Levin: Pentagon committed to repealing ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ law

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has made it clear the Pentagon remains committed to scrapping the law that bans openly gay people from serving in the military.

Gates’ confirmation comes days after he caused a stir in Congress and within the gay rights community when he told the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee to hold off on repealing the law until the Pentagon finishes its study.

Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) had asked the defense chief to justify the purpose for the yearlong study, questioning if it was meant to determine whether the ban should be repealed or whether it is meant to assess how to implement a repeal of the Clinton-era law known as “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

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“The review effort … is charged with assessing the impact of repealing 10 USC 654 and developing a plan to implement such a repeal in the most informed and effective manner possible,” Gates wrote in response to Levin.

Gates had created some confusion over the Pentagon’s views last week after he pressed House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) to hold off on scrapping the ban, known as “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” until the Pentagon finishes its yearlong review.

Skelton does not support scrapping the ban, but many Democratic members of his committee support the repeal of the law.

Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), the main sponsor of the House repeal legislation, indicated he would not back away from his efforts to scrap the law this year, despite the Obama administration’s push to see the study finished first. Murphy a former member of the House Armed Services Committee has been named to the House Appropriations Committee.

Levin, a strong supporter of scrapping the ban, co-sponsored Senate repeal legislation with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). Both the House and Senate Armed Services panels are getting ready to consider the 2011 defense authorization act during the next couple of weeks. The repeal of "Don’t ask, don’t tell" is likely to be one of the most intense topics of negotiations this year.