Reserve association drops support for gay ban
02-12-2010 04:02 PM
The Reserve Officers Association voted this week to drop its long-standing resolution in support of the current ban on allowing gays to serve in the military.The 63,000-member association took two votes at its national convention in Washington this week, said ROA communications director David M. Small.In the first vote, a two-thirds majority moved to drop a standing resolution that endorsed the pre-Clinton military policy of flatly barring gays and lesbians from military service.Then the association rejected a substitute resolution that would have put the group on record as supporting the current law and policy, commonly known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” This resolution failed to get the two-thirds’ majority required for adoption, Small said.There was no direct vote on whether the association actually supports repealing the gay ban.The effect of the two votes, Small said, is to now leave ROA with “no official position on the policy.”A key proponent of repealing current law latched onto the votes as a sign of progress toward President Barack Obama’s goal of repealing the law and policy.Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., the sponsor of U.S. Senate legislation that would repeal the prohibition on open service by gay people, said she was “pleased and proud to see the Reserve Officers Association take this important step to make our country stronger morally and militarily.”“Each time we discharge a member of our armed services just because of who they are, we weaken our military and our national security,” Gillibrand said. “Faced with two wars and nonstop threat of terrorism, we cannot afford to lose some of our best, brightest and bravest service members, especially those in mission-critical areas and specialized in fighting terrorism.”ROA is an 88-year-old congressionally chartered military group generally considered fairly conservative in is stand on national security issues, believing in bigger defense budgets and ensuring the reserve components get their share of resources and benefits.Its previous stance on this particular issue, first adopted in 2004 and last renewed in 2007, described the presence of gays and lesbians in the military as having been “found to be detrimental to good order, morale, discipline, esprit de corps, recruiting and retention, which are at the core of combat effectiveness.”It called on Congress to repeal the Clinton-era “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that allows gays and lesbians to serve as long as they remain closeted and to instead pass a flat prohibition excluding them from enlistment, commissioning or continued service if they already were in the ranks.During debate on the two resolutions, Small said the “general consensus” was that military commanders “have all the tools they need to address any behavior or unit cohesion and morale issues” that might arise from having gays and lesbians in the ranks.“This group also voiced a necessity for current service leaders to be the ones to make the decision on this issue” and also noted that the U.S. military’s policy “puts us out of step with our NATO partners,” Small said.Those who wanted to keep the 2004 resolution or supported the new resolution endorsing “don’t ask, don’t tell” spoke of potential problems with recruiting and retention if the military were open to gays, as well as concerns about unit cohesion, Small said.“I would be hesitant to say ROA is in favor of repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ because there could very well be a revisit of this topic at our summer national council meeting to establish an official position, as right now, we have none,” Small said.
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