No Apology From Gen. Pace for Gay Stance
Wednesday, March 14, 2007; 4:53 AM
WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon's top general said Tuesday he should not have voiced his personal view that homosexuality is immoral and should have just stated his support for the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy in an interview that has drawn criticism from lawmakers and gay-rights groups.
The written statement by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not apologize for his stance on homosexuality. In a newspaper interview Monday, Pace likened homosexual acts to adultery and said the military should not condone it by allowing gays to serve openly in the armed forces.
After a flurry of condemnation Tuesday, Pace issued a statement acknowledging that the Defense Department's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays is a sensitive subject and said: "I should have focused more on my support of the policy and less on my personal moral views."
The military lets gay men and lesbians serve if they keep their sexual orientation private. Commanders may not ask, and service members may not tell. More than 10,000 troops, including more than 50 specialists in Arabic, have been discharged since President Clinton signed it into law in 1994.
In an interview with the Pentagon Channel, the military's in-house television station, Defense Secretary Robert Gates declined to answer a question on his opinion of the policy but made what seemed to be a mild rebuke of Pace.
"Now look, you know I think personal opinion really doesn't have a place here," Gates said. "What's important is that we have a law, a statute that governs 'don't ask, don't tell.'"
He added: "That's the policy of this department, and it's my responsibility to execute that policy as effectively as we can. As long as the law is what it is, that's what we'll do."
In an interview Monday with the Chicago Tribune, Pace was asked about the policy. He said he supports it, that it allows gays to serve and that it does not make "a judgment about individual acts."
He also said: "I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts. I do not believe that the armed forces of the United States are well served by saying through our policies that it's OK to be immoral in any way."
Lawmakers of both parties criticized Pace's remarks.
"We need the most talented people; we need the language skills. We need patriotic Americans who exist across the board in our population," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "We don't need moral judgment from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs."
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., one of Congress' most respected authorities on military matters and a former Navy secretary, said, "I respectfully but strongly disagree with the chairman's view that homosexuality is immoral."