McCain Endorses "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy

Ellen J. Silberman, Boston Herald

December 18, 1999 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain yesterday said he would "absolutely stop" abuses of the military "don't ask, don't tell" policy which have forced dozens of gay people from the military.

Despite the abuses, McCain said he would keep the policy – which forbids military personnel from revealing their homosexuality and their superiors from asking them about it – if he were elected president.

"I support the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy because Gen. Colin Powell, Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf, all of the military leaders that I respect and admire came up with this policy," McCain said. "They thought it was the best way to address a very difficult problem within our military."

McCain's stance sandwiches him between Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who supports the current policy, and Democratic contenders Vice President Al Gore and former Sen. Bill Bradley, who have said they would allow gays to serve openly in the military.

McCain also reiterated a recent promise to meet with Steve May, a gay Arizona state legislator who is on the verge of being kicked out of the Army Reserve.

"He believes that he is being unfairly treated," McCain said during a 90-minute town hall-style meeting at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. "I believe that as his senator I should communicate with him and determine whether that is the case."

May's sister, Shannon, a Harvard student who challenged McCain to change the policy, said she was disappointed in the Arizona Republican's response.

"It was reminiscent of a lot of the speeches that were given back after World War II regarding desegregation of the army at that point and the arguments against putting African Americans in the same barracks as Caucasian soldiers," said May, a Republican who once worked in McCain's press office. "What I think is most disappointing in his answer is that he's a man that people flock to for his charismatic leadership because he'll fight for them on their issues, and I think this is one issue that has an incredible lack of leadership," she said.

But McCain's willingness to meet with Steve May drew praise from the Log Cabin Republicans, a homosexual group that has been rebuffed by Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican front runner.

"McCain is showing extraordinary leadership in being willing to talk to Steve May," said Abner Mason, former national president of the group.