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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Reynolds' bill included language that would have prohibited anyone who was ineligible to serve in the U.S. armed forces under federal regulations in effect on Jan. 1, 2009, from serving in the Guard.

He said the state is allowed to set its own standards for service and is not required to duplicate standards for the rest of the military.

“We believe that the state has the authority as long as they (National Guard members) are under the command of the governor,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said the “don't ask, don't tell policy” was “a good deal until Barack Obama was elected president. I don't think anything about him being elected president made it a bad deal.”

Banz, R-Midwest City, said passage of Reynolds' measure would jeopardize federal funding for the Oklahoma National Guard.

“Over 90 percent of our funding for equipment, personnel and operational training — all of that comes through the United States Air Force and the United States Army,” Banz said.

Status could change

Rita Aragon, a retired Air Force major general who serves as secretary of veteran affairs on Gov. Mary Fallin's Cabinet, wrote a letter Monday to Steele stating that if Oklahoma reinstated the “don't ask, don't tell” policy the state's National Guard federal status would be in jeopardy.

That would result in the state having a militia and would be responsible for all equipping and training, she wrote.

“That would also mean that the members of the state militia would not be accepted as members of the U.S. Air Force or Army,” she said.

Wesselhoft said he has a policy of hearing all bills assigned to his committee. He said he doesn't endorse the bills brought up for a hearing in committee; instead he wants to give House members the opportunity to have their proposals discussed.

Wesselhoft said he was surprised the bill was assigned to his committee; he said Steele told him last week it was probably assigned by mistake and he would decide by Monday whether to allow it to proceed in his committee.

A similar bill was introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates last year but failed to advance.


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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