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End to gay ban poses little risk for military: Pentagon

A Pentagon study issued Tuesday said ending a ban on gay soldiers serving openly would create no serious problem for the US military, as the White House pressed for repealing the law.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen speak to reporters about how best to change the current "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. A Pentagon study released Tuesday said ending a ban on gay soldiers serving openly would create no serious problem for the US military and that a "solid majority" of troops expressed no objection to the change.

The long-awaited report said that a "solid majority" of troops expressed no objection to the change, though members of combat units had more misgivings.

The study, which the White House hopes will pave the way for Congress to lift the ban, concluded the risk "to overall military effectiveness is low" if the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law is repealed.

"We are both convinced that our military can do this, even during this time of war," wrote the report's authors, General Carter Ham, and the Pentagon's top legal adviser, Jeh Johnson.

The report, which surveyed 400,000 active-duty and reserve troops and 150,000 military spouses, found that 70 percent of respondents said the impact of ending the ban would be "positive, mixed, or non-existent."

The 1993 law, which has been labeled discriminatory in recent federal court rulings, requires gay troops to keep their sexual orientation quiet or face discharge from the military.

The report found a minority of 30 percent in the military expected a negative effect from lifting the ban, with resistance running higher among the US Marine Corps.

A pair of boots, with names of veterans who were discharged under the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, is pictured in the Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on September 2010. A Pentagon study released Tuesday said ending a ban on gay soldiers serving openly would create no serious problem for the US military and that a "solid majority" of troops expressed no objection to the change.

Troops in mostly all-male combat units mainly in the Army and Marines also expressed more worries over ending the ban, with roughly 40 to 60 percent expecting a negative effect, the report said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged that the chiefs of the armed services were "less sanguine" about lifting the ban because of the more ambivalent views of combat forces.

However, Gates told reporters he did not believe the attitudes of combat troops would "present an insurmountable barrier" though he added that an "abundance of care" would be required to ensure a smooth transition.

President Barack Obama and his allies in Congress hope the study will bolster a push for action on the issue during a year-end "lame duck" session, before the Democrats' Senate majority shrinks and Republicans take over as the majority party in the House of Representatives in January.

Obama welcomed the findings of the report, saying it confirmed that more than two-thirds of troops were ready to serve with openly gay service members.

"Today I call on the Senate to act as soon as possible so I can sign this repeal into law this year and ensure that Americans who are willing to risk their lives for their country are treated fairly and equally," Obama said in a statement.

A demonstrator waves a rainbow flag in front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC in 2009. A Pentagon study released Tuesday said ending a ban on gay soldiers serving openly would create no serious problem for the US military and that a "solid majority" of troops expressed no objection to the change.

The legislation needs 60 votes in the Senate to overcome any parliamentary delaying tactics, and Democrats are counting on gaining a handful of Republican votes needed to proceed.

Most Republicans had said they wanted to wait for the results of the Pentagon's review before voting on repeal.

Gates warned that if the Senate failed to act, there was a risk the issue would be decided in the courts on short notice, depriving the military of time to carry out the change in an orderly way.

The Pentagon chief added the study showed that ending the ban "would not be the wrenching, traumatic change that many have feared and predicted."

The survey showed 69 percent of troops said they had worked in a unit with a comrade they believed to be homosexual.

When asked about the experience, an overwhelming majority of 92 percent said the presence of the gay or lesbian colleague did not undermine the unit's "ability to work together."

A Pentagon study released Tuesday said ending a ban on gay soldiers serving openly would create no serious problem for the US military and that a "solid majority" of troops expressed no objection to the change. The Log Cabin Republicans, a gay advocacy group, welcomed the report. Duration: 00:45

"As one special operations force warfighter told us, 'we have a gay guy (in the unit). He's big, he's mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay,'" it said.

The report concluded that no separate bathroom, shower or housing facilities would be required for gay recruits, because it would create a stigma and would be impractical in any case.

The review came as another poll showed a clear majority of Americans support lifting the ban and as pop superstar Lady Gaga joined calls by activists to repeal the rule.

About 14,000 military personnel have been discharged under the law since it was adopted as a compromise in 1993, according to rights groups.

Opponents of the ban have compared the issue to then-president Harry Truman's 1948 executive order ending racial segregation in the US military.