MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
Congressional Democrats and gay advocacy groups are today calling for an apology from the military's top general. Marine general, Peter Pace, called homosexuality immoral and behavior that should be punished by the military. He's the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pace made his comments in the Chicago Tribune.
In a moment, we'll hear a reaction from a group representing gay servicemen and women, but first, NPR defense correspondent, Guy Raz, has this report from the Pentagon.
GUY RAZ: General Peter Pace is not a man known for his candor - he's deliberative, cautious, tightlipped. He's been a member of the Joint Chiefs since the start of the Iraq War in 2003 and some of his critics have called him a lapdog - a leading general who didn't raise any doubts about military readiness before the war.
But on issues of morality, General Pace was unusually candid. The Chicago Tribune released audio portions of its interview with Pace - the quality is a bit dull so listen closely...
General PETER PACE (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff): I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts.
RAZ: Pace was referring to the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. It goes back to the Clinton years, 1993. Then President Clinton struck a compromise with the military over its ban on gay personnel. And under the policy, commanders were not allowed to ask about sexual orientation. If a service member was gay and admitted it, he or she would face automatic discharge.
There has been a lot of talk recently, both in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, over whether the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy is anachronistic - or out of step with the times. Pace said he didn't think so.
General PACE: So, from that standpoint, saying that gays should serve openly in the military, to me, says that we by policy will be condoning what I believe is immoral activity.
RAZ: In an interview with the Pentagon's own television channel today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates distanced himself from Pace's comments.
Mr. ROBERT GATES (Secretary of Defense): Now, look, you know, I think personal opinion really doesn't have a place here.
RAZ: Senior Pentagon officials privately said the defense secretary summoned Pace to his office after the comments came to light, and requested he put out a statement. Pace did - it wasn't an apology - but regret, he said, for expressing his personal views on morality.
Guy Raz, NPR News, The Pentagon.