Army secretary backtracks on 'Don't ask, don't tell' enforcement comments

In an unusual move, Army Secretary John McHugh is backtracking on his earlier statements with regard to the controversial law that bans openly gay people from serving in the military.

McHugh told reporters at a defense writers group Wednesday that he would not pursue discharges against soldiers who tell him privately they are gay.


But on Thursday evening, the Pentagon issued a statement by McHugh to clarify his stance.

"While President Obama has asked Congress to repeal 'Don't ask, don't tell,' it is and remains the law of the land. As I have testified before Congress and [Defense] Secretary Gates has made clear, the Department of the Defense will continue to apply the law, as we are obligated to do," McHugh said in a lengthy statement.
"With regard to the three soldiers who shared their views and thoughts with me on 'Don't Ask Don't Tell,' I might better have counseled them that statements about their sexual orientation could not be treated as confidential and could result in their separation under the law," McHugh said. 

At the Wednesday meeting with reporters, 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.

Under “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.

Despite the need to clarify those comments, McHugh indicated that no action will be taken against those soldiers who told him that they were gay.

"Because of the informal and random manner in which these engagements occurred, I am unable to identify these soldiers and I am not in a position to formally pursue the matter," McHugh said.