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Services Deliver 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal Input

WASHINGTON -- All of the services and combatant commands have provided their input to the Defense Department in advance of the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law that bans gays from serving openly in the military, a Pentagon spokesman said here today.

The input includes progress on training of the force, the regulatory aspects of the change in the law and other aspects, Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said.

"Ultimately, it's for the services to provide their input to the secretary about whether their services are prepared for repeal to take place," Lapan said.

No requirement exists for 100 percent of the force to receive training prior to repeal, the colonel said. "It is more in the nature of giving the input where all the services are in the training and whether they've reached a point where they believe they are ready to move forward," he explained.

The department actually is trying to follow two laws, Lapan said. The first is the original law passed in 1993. Its provisions were to remain in effect until repeal. The second law calls for repeal to take effect after certification that the services are ready.

However, a court in California ruled that the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law is unconstitutional. The U.S. government asked for a stay, and a three-panel court of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the stay. On July 6, the court vacated the stay and gave the department 10 days to stop enforcing the provisions of the old law.

"We have two laws: the law known as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' that a court injunction has stopped us from enforcing, but we also have a law that requires us to certify that the force is ready for repeal," Lapan said. "And we are trying to comply with both."

Since then, Defense Department officials have been speaking with Justice Department lawyers about the next steps. In the meantime, the department continues to abide by the repeal law, and that is what the input from the services represents, Lapan said.

The services have provided the input, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense will make their decision when to certify to the president that DOD is ready to move forward with repeal.

Lapan would not hazard a guess when the decision will land on the president's desk.