By Mark Memmott
Saying that they "represent an important improvement in the way the current law is put into practice," Defense Secretary Robert Gates just spelled out changes being made to the way the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring gays from serving is implemented.
Among the key changes the Pentagon is making:
-- If a third party comes forward with information about the sexual orientation of a member of the military, Gates said, "special scrutiny" will be put on whether that person might be "motivated to harm" the soldier, sailor or Marine.
-- The cases will now be handled by higher-ranking officers.
-- Confidential statements made to "lawyers, clergy and psychotherapists" will be among the information that will not be used against someone.
As the AP reminds us:
"President Barack Obama has said the ban unfairly punishes gays and has called on Congress to lift it. Gates agrees but says he wants to move slowly and has ordered an internal assessment, due Dec. 1, on how the Defense Department could lift the ban without damaging morale or hurting recruitment."