This week, in pressing Congress for urgent action to change the law, both Defense Secretary Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, once again raised the canard that Section 654 must be repealed immediately because it "forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens." In fact, current law does no such thing. The law simply says that those who commit certain acts should not be permitted to join the armed forces. It's not about "who they are." It's about what they do.
Apparently unmoved by the concern expressed by well over half of our soldiers, sailors and Marines deployed in war zones, Gates and Mullen now argue that Congress must repeal the law immediately or the courts will intervene. That, too, is a phony argument. Section 654 has withstood more than a dozen legal challenges since it has been on the books. The case now pending in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is but the most recent test. The Obama administration's "legal eagles" need only dust off old files going back to the Clinton administration to see how the law has been upheld in the past.
Obama's push to have the law repealed by this lame-duck session of Congress has been seconded by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. But the full-court press may yet produce the political equivalent of an elbow in the face for the O-Team.
In his testimony Dec. 2, while urging the Senate Armed Services Committee to act immediately on changing the law, Mullen told the solons that service in the military is a "meritocracy" based on "what you do, not who you are." That, of course, is the very argument many of us have been making against allowing active homosexuals into the ranks.
Concerns about repeal -- on readiness, retention and recruitment in the brightest, best-educated and most combat-experienced military force in history -- are not assuaged by the report. Nearly 25 percent of those now serving -- and as many as 32 percent of Marines -- said they are likely to leave the service rather than be assigned to live with and serve beside active homosexuals.
This potential attrition -- while more than 150,000 troops are serving in harm's way -- hasn't diminished the O-Team's zeal for repeal. When Sen. John McCain confronted Mullen with this consequence from allowing homosexuals into the military, the admiral replied, "We'll deal with that." Gates, ever sympathetic to the needs of our troops, observed, "They can't just up and leave."
No, they can't. But when they come home, they can vote with their feet. Is wrecking the world's finest military the price we have to pay for a campaign promise? Only this lame-duck Congress knows the answer.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.