Two of the three Republicans running for the chance to face-off against Democrat Tom Harkin in November are criticizing Harkin on the issue of gays in the military. During a hearing in Washington last fall, D.C., Harkin defended the rights of gays and lesbians who’re serving in the nation’s armed forces.

Christopher Reed, one of the three Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate, served in the Navy both before and after the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy took effect. "It has caused more disruption by bringing it up than there was beforehand. There are no open homosexuals in the military," Reed says. "I think it creates a distraction that is unnecessary to the fighting force."

George Eichhorn, a Republican from Stratford who is a former state legislator, agrees that if gays serve openly in the military, it will be a distraction for the troops. "The open expression of sexuality in the military seems to be a diversion and to have congress interfere in this area seems to be counterproductive to what the military forces are all about," Eichhorn says.

The two candidates made their comments today  during a joint appearance on Iowa Public Radio. Steve Rathje of Cedar Rapids, the third G.O.P. candidate for the U.S. Senate, declined to appear on the program.

In September of last year during a Senate hearing, Harkin told Peter Pace — the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — that it was "hurtful" and "demoralizing" for Pace to call homosexual acts "immoral." Pace told Harkin that "cutting out homosexuals" from the military would be a "mistake" and he approved of the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy. But Pace said homosexual sex is "counter to God’s law" and is a "sin." Pace classified all sex outside the confines of marriage — whether heterosexual or homosexual — as a sin.