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Top US Military Officer: Let Gays Serve Openly

Admiral Mike Mullen offered his support for President Obama's proposal to end the ''don't ask, don't tell'' policy. Also, a ban on same-sex marriage faces trial in California. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Last week President Obama again called for ending a ban against people in the military who are openly homosexual. That was one of his campaign promises. This week America's top military officer expressed support for the proposal at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Admiral Mike Mullen is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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MIKE MULLEN: "It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates also expressed support for ending the policy known as "don't ask, don't tell."

President Bill Clinton proposed it seventeen years ago. The law, passed by Congress, does not prevent gays and lesbians from serving in the military. But it does require them not to tell anyone about their sexual preference. Estimates of the number of troops dismissed under the policy are as high as thirteen thousand five hundred.

A USA Today/Gallup Poll last May showed that fifty-eight percent of conservatives and Republicans supported letting gays and lesbians serve openly.

But Senator John McCain, a Navy veteran, is among Republican lawmakers against ending the policy.

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JOHN MCCAIN: "Has this policy been ideal? No, it has not. But it has been effective. It has helped to balance a potentially disruptive tension between the desires of a minority and the broader interests of our all-volunteer force."

Secretary Gates said he has launched a year-long study of the possible effects of a change in the law. But he gave the Defense Department forty-five days to think of ways to enforce the existing law "in a more humane and fair manner."

In California, a federal judge is studying the evidence in a trial over a ban against same-sex marriage in that state. Fifty-two percent of California voters amended the state constitution in November of two thousand eight.

In the trial, two same-sex couples argue that the state ban violates equal protection rights under the United States Constitution. The judge is expected to hear closing arguments next month. The case is likely to reach the Supreme Court.

A survey last April by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that fifty-four percent of Americans opposed gay marriage. Thirty-five percent said they supported it.

Thirty of the fifty states have changed their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage. Five states permit it: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. And same-sex marriage could soon become legal in the city of Washington.

Several countries, mostly in Europe, offer different levels of marriage rights to same-sex couples.

On Thursday, President Obama condemned an anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda that proposes death for some crimes. He spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. The yearly event is organized by a Christian group known as The Family. Activists say Ugandan politician David Bahati, who proposed the legislation, is a member of that group.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Steve Ember.