GUY RAZ, Host:
NPR's Rachel Martin reports.
RACHEL MARTIN: A lot of the big questions surrounding don't ask, don't tell aren't just about what happens in war zones, they're about what happens back home on base, where professional and personal lives intersect. And one of the most obvious questions is also one of the most complicated.
ANTHONY CORDESMAN: The issue immediately arises: What are the rights of gay partners?
MARTIN: Anthony Cordesman is with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
CORDESMAN: Do they have insurance benefits? Do they have medical care? Do they have the legal equivalent of marriage?
MARTIN: Overseas bases, Cordesman says that brings up a whole different set of questions.
CORDESMAN: For example, there are countries where it would be very difficult to take a gay partner. The law simply prohibits that or creates almost draconian penalties.
MARTIN: There's also fairness. Cordesman wonders whether openly gay troops will be treated as an official minority group. Like gender and race, will sexual orientation be considered in efforts to improve diversity within the force?
CORDESMAN: Are you going to create any kind of balance in terms of promotion? Are you seeking balance in terms of leadership? Or do you just totally ignore all of these factors?
MARTIN: Gay-rights groups aren't ignoring all these questions, but they're definitely not playing them up.
CLARKE COOPER: We're talking about no big deal here.
MARTIN: Clarke says yes, there are big issues that will have to be addressed, but he insists that, in the short term, repealing don't ask, don't tell will mean nothing more than an extra bullet point in a training presentation.
COOPER: Every year, every service member gets a series of briefs, and so probably what will happen is there will be an additional bullet that will say, you know, in addition to harassing somebody based on their race or sex, you can't harass someone based on their orientation, either. So, nothing big.
MARTIN: Congress has been divided on what to do about don't ask, don't tell. A handful of Democrats and Republicans, including Susan Collins of Maine, have said they want to see the Pentagon's report before voting on repeal. Collins says, sure, there will be a lot of bureaucratic issues to work through, but the military has adapted to major change before.
SUSAN COLLINS: I'm sure that there were the same cultural questions asked, and it was something that needed to be done. And once the policy was changed, the armed forces reacted very well. And I think that's what will happen in this case.
MARTIN: Rachel Martin, NPR News, Washington.
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