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U.S. military more open to gays serving openly

A group of retired generals, the current chief of the Joint Chiefs, and a majority of returning soldiers say full disclosure should replace "don't ask, don't tell" law.

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Is the US ready to join Britain, Israel, most NATO nations, and other countries in allowing gay men and lesbians to openly serve in the armed forces?

Most likely not any time soon. But the US military's longstanding aversion to having such service members among the ranks seems to be shifting, reflecting public opinion.

A group of 28 retired generals and admirals issued a letter calling on Congress to repeal the 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" act. The controversial law was passed early in the Clinton administration, prohibiting anyone who "demonstrate(s) a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts" from military service because it "would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability."

Retired Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says he's changed his mind on the subject and now favors opening up the military based on sexual orientation.

"Conversations [with the troops] showed me just how much the military has changed.... I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces," General Shalikashvili wrote in a column in The New York Times earlier this year.

Current Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told Military Times last week, "If the American people want to change this policy and change this law, bringing it up through [Congress] and changing that policy and changing the law is the right answer."

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