Commentary: 'Don't ask, don't tell' is a byproduct of a different time

The federal policy that allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military until someone outs them is nearly 17 years old. It's high time that it grew up.

America is a different place than it was in 1993 when Congress passed the law as a rebuke of President Bill Clinton.

Back then, 44 percent of Americans believed that gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly. Today, 75 percent do.

Back then, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Colin Powell, opposed Clinton's move to end the ban on gay soldiers. Powell said it would undermine discipline and order in the military.

On Tuesday, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, told Congress that "allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do."

"I have served with homosexuals since 1968," Mullen said. "Putting individuals in a position where they wonder 'Is today going to be the day?' and devaluing them in that regard, just is inconsistent with us as an institution."

Talk about a sea change. Even Powell has beat a retreat on his earlier opposition, saying "attitudes and circumstances have changed" and so should the policy.

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