April 5, 2010 at 1:14 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Army secretary retracts statements on ignoring 'Don't Ask'

Army Secretary John McHugh (photo courtesy army.mil).

Army Secretary John McHugh issued a statement last week retracting previous comments he made on the new “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” regulations being a moratorium as well as remarks that he wouldn’t pursue the discharges of soldiers who came out to him.

“I was incorrect when I stated that Secretary [Robert] Gates had placed a moratorium on discharges of homosexual service-members,” he said. “There is no moratorium of the law and neither Secretary Gates nor I would support one.”

The new changes, unveiled last week by Gates, limit third-party outings by requiring such information to be given under oath, and raise the rank of the officers handling inquiries and discharges.

But until Congress repeals “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” McHugh said the statute “remains the law of the land” and said he and the Army “will fulfill our obligation to uphold it.”

According to the New York Times, McHugh had earlier told reporters last week it would be “counterproductive” to “take disciplinary action against someone who spoke with me openly and honestly.” He was quoted as saying he had no intention of pursuing the discharges of active duty service members who recently told him that they are gay.

But McHugh clarified these comments in his later statement, saying it would have been better for him to have counseled three soldiers who came out to him about that “statements about their sexual orientation could not be treated as confidential and could result in their separation under the law.”

McHugh said he couldn’t identify these soldiers who disclosed their sexual orientation because of “the informal and random manner in which these engagements occurred” and said he cannot formally pursue the matter.

Also mentioned in the statement is the working group examining how to implement repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” McHugh said he “strongly” supports “the deliberative process” Gates has set up in February to review the law.

McHugh said those undertaking the review may get the viewpoints of LGBT service members currently serving under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by working through a third party so these troops wouldn’t face potential discharge.

“The working group is likely to utilize a third party from outside of the department to solicit these views so soldiers can speak candidly and without fear of separation,” McHugh said. “I urge every soldier to share his or her views and suggestions on this important issue through this channel. This is the appropriate way to do so.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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