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Franken co-sponsors repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell" rules for gays in the military

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Sen. Al Franken has waded into the culture wars again, this time as a co-sponsor of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2010, which contains a provision to repeal the law that prevents gay Americans from openly serving in the military. In doing so, the bill seeks to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" law passed during the Clinton administration. DATD said, in effect, that gays could only serve in the military if they kept their sexual orientation to themselves. If they spoke out -- or were outed by someone else -- they could be discharged.

"I've been on 7 USO tours - 4 to Iraq and Afghanistan - and I recently returned from a trip to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region as Senator," Franken said in a statement. "Over the years I've seen tremendous movement on this issue within the military. They're ready for it and we're ready for it. We need to end a policy that forces patriotic Americans to lie in order to defend their country."

The bill was introduced in the Senate by Independent Joe Lieberman, of Connecticut.

"The bottom line is that we have a volunteer military," Lieberman said. "If Americans want to serve, they ought to have the right to be considered for that service regardless of characteristics such as race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Repealing the current policy will allow more patriotic Americans to defend our national security and live up to our nation's founding values of freedom and opportunity."

The introduction comes ahead of a study on gays in the military ordered by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who supports lifting the ban.

Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also supports lifting the ban, and defended his position before angry Republicans in a Senate committee hearing last month:

Several Republicans on the panel, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the committee's ranking Republican, blasted President Obama's decision to end the gay ban and Gates' decision to announce his support for it before the Johnson-Ham panel has issued its recommendations. Some suggested that Mullen was carrying Obama's water instead of presenting his own advice. "If it was a trial, perhaps we'd raise the undue-command-influence defense," said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).

That drew Mullen's ire. "I have served with homosexuals since 1968," the chairman said, raising his voice. "Everyone in the military has... A number of things, cumulatively, for me, get me to this position." Sen. Carl Levin, the committee's chairman and a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" enemy, called Mullen's comments a "profile in leadership." After the hearing, Mullen tweeted, "Stand by what I said: Allowing homosexuals to serve openly is the right thing to do. Comes down to integrity."

The report is due in December.