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House panel approves measure complicating 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' repeal

The US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee [official website] on Thursday approved legislation [press release] that could complicate the repeal of the military's controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive]. The committee approved a revision to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 [materials] that would require the heads of all four military branches to certify that lifting the ban on gays in the military would not harm military operations. Currently, the repeal must only be certified by the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with full repeal to take place within 60 days of certification. The amendment was introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) [official website], who said [press release] that "excluding the service chiefs is a mistake." Gay rights groups such as Human Rights Campaign [advocacy website], however, claim [press release] that the measure is merely an "attempt to slow down repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and insert distracting issues into the debate."

US President Barack Obama signed the bill to repeal DADT [JURIST report] in December, but the process could still take months. Last month, US Undersecretary of Defense Clifford Stanley [official profile] testified that the repeal is on track to be complete midsummer [JURIST report]. The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 [HR 2965 materials] was approved in the Senate in December after being passed [JURIST reports] by the House of Representatives the week before. Since the enactment of DADT in 1993, approximately 13,000 servicemen and women have been discharged from the armed forces as a result of the policy.

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