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Bill to reinstate 'don't ask, don't tell' in Oklahoma National Guard appears dead this year

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: February 21, 2012
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Legislative efforts to reinstate the “don't ask, don't tell” policy in the Oklahoma National Guard appear dead this year.

A bill that would have reinstated the policy was to be taken up Monday by the House of Representatives Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

But House Speaker Kris Steele reassigned the bill about 90 minutes before the meeting to the House Rules Committee.

Rep. Gary Banz, chairman of the Rules Committee, said House Bill 2195 won't be heard by his committee and the measure is probably dead this year.

“I don't like the ‘don't ask, don't tell' being repealed at the national level, but this is not the place and not the time to put our Air and Army National Guard troops and our whole organization at risk,” he said.

Rep. Mike Reynolds, the measure's author, said his bill faces an uphill struggle. He showed up at the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee and attempted to get the language of his bill inserted in another measure.

Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, the committee chairman, ruled Reynolds out of order and refused to allow him to proceed.

“That bill is the property of the speaker,” Wesselhoft, R-Moore, told Reynolds. “It is no longer my property.”

He said after the meeting he wouldn't allow Reynolds to insert his language in another bill because “it's getting around the rules.”

Reynolds left the meeting quickly and complained afterward about Steele's decision.

“The speaker did what the speaker can do so well — made a complete mincemeat of the rules,” said Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City.

“That is the type of dictatorial rule that is going on in this House of Representatives, and it's got to come to an end,” Reynolds said. “Exposing it will be the start.”

Jeopardizing funds

John Estus, a spokesman for Steele, R-Shawnee, said senior state military officials had expressed concerns to House members that the proposed policy would jeopardize federal funding for the Oklahoma National Guard.

“Speaker Steele believes those concerns are valid,” Estus said. “The decision has nothing to do with any individual legislator and everything to do with protecting the ability of our National Guard to defend our state and nation.”

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BACKGROUND

‘Don't ask, don't tell'

The “don't ask, don't tell” policy, implemented by federal law in 1993, barred homosexuals from serving openly in the military. The policy ended in September after President Barack Obama, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff determined its repeal would not harm military readiness. The policy prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service.

I don't like the ‘don't ask, don't tell' being repealed at the national level, but this is not the place and not the time to put our Air and Army National Guard troops and our whole organization at risk.”

Rep. Gary Banz

Chairman of the House Rules Committee

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