The two major party candidates in Iowa’s second congressional district support the move to repeal the “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” policy which forbids openly gay and lesbian soldiers from serving in the military.
Republican candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Ottumwa served 24 years in the military, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in the Army, and she acknowledges her stand on the issue may be unpopular with some of her fellow Republicans.
“Be it popular or unpopular, I think given my stance in the military, given the needs of the military, people who have served their country, willing to serve their country and also the fact that we also have some translators who are in our military services or helping our military services that we need to remain in the military given our conflict in the Middle East,” she says.
Miller-Meeks says she was asked about this issue in a forum in February, and her answer indicated she will support what the top military brass recommends.
“If it was the recommendation of the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, the Joints Chiefs of Staff, the generals on the ground, that it would not that affect retention or recruitment, that I would be in favor of repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Miller-Meeks says. “So I think you have to take that in concert with the people that are actually there in the military. Does it affect moral, retention of recruitment? Then, if not, then I would be in favor.”
The U.S. Secretary of Defense took the first steps toward repealing the policy in February, appointing a “working group” to come up with a plan for implementing the change. Second District Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Mount Vernon, is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
“I actually agree with the top military leaders in our country — Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen, the chair of the Joints Chiefs of Staff. They have both said publicly that we need to repeal that policy,” Loebsack says. “It’s not in the interests of our country to keep that policy in place.”
Admiral Mike Mullen told congress in February that “allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly (in the military) would be the right thing to do.” The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been in affect for 17 years, and Loebsack says many qualified gays and lesbians have been “excluded” from military service as a result.
“Of course, at the same time, I’m looking forward to the military, the Defense Department completing its study as to how best to implement the repeal of the policy,” Loebsack says. “But I do support the repeal.”
The two candidates made their comments this morning during a joint appearance on “Iowa Press” — an Iowa Public Television program which airs tonight at 7:30 and will be rebroadcast Sunday at 11:30 a.m.