Gates Opposes U.S. Legislation to End Gay Troops Ban Before Pentagon Study

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told lawmakers today he’d “strongly oppose” legislation ending the military’s ban on openly gay service members before he completes a review of the policy.

“I hope Congress will not” pass such a measure, “as it would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns and perspectives do not matter on an issue with such direct impact and consequence for them and their families,” Gates wrote Representative Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Skelton, a Missouri Democrat who says he opposes lifting the ban, asked Gates’s view in anticipation of an attempt by committee members to add legislative provisions to the fiscal 2011 defense budget that would mandate repeal.

President Barack Obama pledged to lift the 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military in his Jan. 27 State of the Union address.

Gates has endorsed Obama’s position and ordered a review of the repeal’s potential impact. Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and General Carter Ham, the Army’s top commander in Europe, were picked to lead the Pentagon review, which is to be completed by December.

Gates told Skelton “I strongly oppose any legislation that seeks to change policy prior to completion of this vital assessment.”

The military discharged 259 men and 169 women last year under the law.

As many as 66,000 gay men and women may be serving in the U.S. military, about 2.2 percent of all personnel, including 13,000 on active duty, according to a study by the Williams Institute of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law.

To contact the reporters on this story: Anthony Capaccio in Washington at acapaccio@bloomberg.net;

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