Washington, DC - In remarks today at the Senate Appropriations Committee, outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace clarified remarks he made earlier this year about gay service personnel and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on open service. In response to questions from Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) about Pace’s earlier comments referring to homosexuality as “immoral,” the General indicated a willingness to change the law.
“Are there wonderful Americans who happen to be homosexual serving in the military? Yes,” Pace said. “[W]e should respect those who want to serve the nation but not through the law of the land, condone activity that, in my upbringing, is counter to God's law.” Pace then went on to say that, “"I would be very willing and able and supportive” to changes to the policy “to continue to allow the homosexual community to contribute to the nation without condoning what I believe to be activity — whether it to be heterosexual or homosexual — that in my upbringing is not right,” indicating support for policies that would treat behavior by all service personnel, regardless of sexual orientation, the same.
“General Pace is right in his assertion that lesbian and gay personnel should be treated equally alongside their heterosexual colleagues,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). “’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ however, creates a separate set of standards for gay personnel. The law is about status, and not conduct. Policies regulating conduct are already on the books and should be applied without regard to sexual orientation, but simply being lesbian or gay should not be grounds for dismissal from the armed forces.”
In March, the Chicago Tribune reported that Pace said that, “I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.” While reiterating his personal opinion today, however, Pace indicated that lesbian and gay Americans do serve, and the law should allow their continued service.
“We welcome General Pace’s comments today, and hope he will continue to speak out for the equal treatment of every service member, regardless of their sexual orientation,” said Sarvis. “The lesbian and gay community has a long history of service in our military, and that commitment and dedication should be appreciated. SLDN looks forward to continuing this dialogue with General Pace.”
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Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is a national, non-profit legal services, watchdog and policy organization dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel affected by ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and related forms of intolerance. For more information, visit www.sldn.org.