Gingrich Shifts Stance on Gays in Military
Apr. 03, 1995
WASHINGTON (AP) _ House Speaker Newt Gingrich's support for restoring a ban on homosexuals in the military represents a shift. As recently as 1993, he said asking recruits about sexual orientation was taking things ``radically too far.''
Lauren Sims, spokeswoman for Gingrich, said Monday that Gingrich took his stance after hearing the concerns of military officers that homosexuality ``was not consistent with the military lifestyle.''
``The speaker was bowing to the judgment of the experts,'' Sims said.
Top military officials support the administration's ``don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue'' policy, but many high-ranking officers cited by Gingrich do not.
A federal judge said in a New York ruling last week that the policy was unconstitutional.
Gingrich said Sunday that the Republican-led Congress would seek to bring back the ban, reversing the administration's policy.
``I'd be very surprised if you don't see a Republican Congress saying that serving in the military has a unique set of requirements, and if the military feels that in fact it's inappropriate, we're willing to abide by the military judgment,'' he said.
A gay rights group, the Human Rights Campaign Fund, pointed out that Gingrich had earlier spoken in favor of at least partially lifting the ban and that, on Sept. 28, 1993, he voted against an amendment that would have allowed the military to resume asking recruits whether they were gay or bisexual. The House, at that time controlled by the Democrats, defeated the amendment 291-144.
A year earlier, Gingrich had said he opposed discharging people from the military ``for purely private behavior.''
And in a speech before the 1993 vote, he voiced his ``very strong opposition'' to the amendment.
``It is a painful, difficult and an emotional issue that goes to the heart of human lives,'' Gingrich said. To go back to asking recruits about sexual orientation ``strikes me as radically too far, unnecessary and inappropriate.''
The vote and those statements earned Gingrich a spot in the Christian Action Network's 1994 ``Hall of Shame.''
``With Bill Clinton as commander-in-chief and `friends' like Gingrich abandoning their foxholes, what's our military leadership to think?'' the network wrote in its listing of ``Hall of Shame'' members.
The speaker's new comments appeared to catch other senior Republicans by surprise. The House National Security Committee has no plans to take up a measure restoring the old policy. Instead, the committee chairman, Rep. Floyd Spence, R-S.C., has said the committee should continue to monitor the workability of the Clinton policy and to await resolution of various court decisions that have ruled the ban unconstitutional.
And Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in response to Gingrich's position, ``I believe we should allow time for the judicial system to confirm the constitutionality of the policy.''
Briefing reporters Monday on a variety of issues, Gingrich said a Republican move to restore the ban would be handled through the annual defense authorization bill, which usually goes to the floor for consideration in June or July.
The administration policy allows homosexuals to serve in the armed forces but requires them to keep their sexual orientation private. The policy also prohibits interviewers from asking recruits about the subject and bars investigations based solely on determining orientation.