From The Caucus in the NYT By PETER BAKER:
"Gen. Colin L. Powell, who as the nation’s top military officer in the 1990s opposed allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military, switched gears today and threw his support behind efforts to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law he helped shepherd in.
Gen. Colin L. Powell in December.“In the almost 17 years since the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed,” General Powell said in a statement issued by his office. He added: “I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”
Robert M. Gates, the defense secretary, and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers on Tuesday that they supported President Obama’s proposal to repeal the 1993 law forbidding gay men and lesbians to be open about their sexuality while serving in uniform.
Admiral Mullen was the first Joint Chiefs chairman ever to take that position, signaling the evolution in attitudes both inside the military and in the broader society since the debate under President Bill Clinton.
When Mr. Clinton tried to end the ban on gay soldiers, General Powell was the Joint Chiefs chairman and opposed the move on the grounds that it would undermine discipline and order in the military but he supported the “don’t ask” compromise. In his statement on Wednesday, General Powell said “the principal issue has always been the effectiveness of the Armed Forces and order and discipline in the ranks.”
He noted that he had said for the past two years that it was “time for the law to be reviewed,” but his new statement of unequivocal support for the effort by Mr. Gates and Admiral Mullen could be an important factor as the debate moves forward this year.
After retiring from the military, General Powell went on to become an active Republican and joined the cabinet of President George W. Bush as secretary of state. But he bolted from the party and endorsed Mr. Obama in 2008."