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Rep. Hunter: Repealing 'Don't Ask' Will Hurt Military

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This week, were going to hear a variety of perspectives on what to do with dont ask, dont tell. Tomorrow, well hear from someone who wants to repeal the policy and allow gays to serve openly. Today, we turn to California Congressman Duncan Hunter. He is a Republican and a former U.S. Marine who served both in Afghanistan and Iraq. Congressman Hunter, welcome to the program.

Representative DUNCAN HUNTER (Republican, California): Hey, great to be with you.

BLOCK: You are not in favor of a repeal of dont ask, dont tell. Why not?

Rep. HUNTER: No, because I think that its bad for the cohesiveness and the unity of the military units, especially those that are in close combat, that are in close quarters in country right now. Its not the time to do it. I think its - the military is not civilian life. And I think the folks who have been in the military that have been in these very close situations with each other, there has to be a special bond there. And I think that bond is broken if you open up the military to transgenders, to hermaphrodites, to gays and lesbians.

BLOCK: Transgenders and hermaphrodites.

Rep. HUNTER: Yeah, thats going to be part of this whole thing. Its not just gays and lesbians. Its a whole gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual community. If you're going to let anybody no matter what preference - what sexual preference they have that means the military is going to probably let everybody in. Its going to be like civilian life and the I think that that would be detrimental for the military.

BLOCK: Was there anything in your experience with the military in Afghanistan and Iraq that made you think that unit cohesion would be a real issue if gays and lesbians who, I think we can acknowledge, are serving in the military now, just not openly, were to be open about their sexual orientation?

Rep. HUNTER: Yeah, I think that the majority of people in the military are they're young kids. They usually have more conservative families, more conservative backgrounds and I think that it would go against their principles and it would frankly make everybody a little bit uneasy to be in these close situations, how you go into combat, you know, the shower situation, the bathroom situation, just, you know, very mundane details - things that we have men and women separated, you know, because we dont want to have that sexual distraction. That exists for the homosexual aspect of things, too.

BLOCK: But Congressman Hunter, wouldnt you agree that there are gays and lesbians serving in the military right now, they just are not open about their orientation. So the problems that you raise presumably would be problems already. They are in the barracks already. They are in the showers already.

Rep. HUNTER: No, but they arent open about it, like you just said. Its like if you want to work for NPR, you dont go to work and on the first day say, hey, I want everybody to know that Im gay. You probably dont care one way or the other as long as they, you know, get their particular job done. I think the military is the same way. Thats why dont ask, dont tell works.

BLOCK: Admiral Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said today in the Senate hearing that hes talked to counterparts in other countries where they do allow gays to serve openly in the military, and there has been no impact, he says, on military effectiveness. What do you think about that?

Rep. HUNTER: Let me answer with this too. Admiral Mullen is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, a political appointee. And thats fine, he has his opinion. But his opinion is not necessarily that of the chief of staff of the Army or the Marine Corp commandant. But I would say in answer to your particular question, the U.S. is not Canada and were not Great Britain and I would argue that we have a superior military and a much larger military than any other country. Thats why were kind of the world's security force.

BLOCK: Congressman Hunter, I have been looking at some polling a Gallup poll that was done in May of this year - that shows more people in this country, favor allowing openly gay men and lesbian women to serve in the military than five years ago. Do you think the climate has really shifted on this since Congress took it up back in 1993 and that the times have changed?

Rep. HUNTER: Maybe civilian-wise it has. But I can show you polls that are inter-military polls that show they havent changed. In this study that Secretary Gates set up for one year, were going to find out what the Marine Corp commandant thinks. Were going to see what General Casey and the Army thinks. Were going to see what the, you know, from private first classes in Marine force recon to Army rangers, were going to see what they think about this and I think that will be quite telling.

BLOCK: Congressman Hunter, thank you for talking with us.

Rep. HUNTER: Hey, great to be with you. Thank you.

BLOCK: Duncan Hunter is a Republican congressman from California. And tomorrow, well hear the views of someone who believes gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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