Yesterday, the House Armed Services Committee heard testimony on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they don't tell anyone they are gays and lesbians or engage in sexual activity. Four Pennsylvania congressional representatives serve on this committee, Democrats Bob Brady, Patrick Murphy, and Joe Sestak, and Republican Bill Shuster.
One of the witnesses, Elaine Donnelly, caused some controversy by saying that the HIV infection rate would go up if gays were allowed to serve openly in the military, and that openly gay or lesbian soldiers would disrupt unit cohesion.
Joe Sestak's reaction is given on The Hill Blog. Here is an excerpt:
Without any question, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will be overturned in the not-too-distant future. And it should be. I’ve found in working with the military in my district that this isn’t an issue for them.
Bob Brady is also on records as opposing DADT. See "Pa. rep challenges "don't ask, don't tell," by Casey Bell in the Philadelphia Gay News (2007). Brady and several other PA reps co-sponsored a bill to overturn the policy.
Patrick Murphy, the only Iraq War veteran in Congress, took exception to Ms. Donnelly's testimony. There are two you tube videos of his response (you tube 1, you tube 2).
The Hill also took note of the exchange "Lawmakers grill critic of gays in the military," by Roxana Tiron, 7/23):
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) a freshman who served in the Army, was visibly enraged, assailing Donnelly over her statements that allowing openly gay people to serve in the military would hurt unit cohesion. He charged that Donnelly implied that the straight men and women in the military “are not professional enough” to be able to maintain unit cohesion.
“This is an insult to me and many of the soldiers,” said Murphy, who served in the Iraq war.
Murphy pointed out that 24 other countries allow openly gay people to serve in the military.
Murphy also wrote about the DADT policy in his book, Taking the Hill (pp. 55):
Today, the policy has become not only unjust but dangerously counterproductive: Since 9/11, it has resulted in the dismissal of more than fifty Arab-language interpreters and 3,500 much-needed troops at the very time when they're needed most. Sexual misconduct should be punished. But these wrongful dismissals were about sexual orientation, breaching our constitutional principle of equality for all.
It would be interesting to ask those in the service, whose terms have been extended time and again, or those without translators, if they would accept openly gay soldiers in exchange for shorter tours of duty and a better ability to communicate with the locals, or to have relevant documents translated.