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Pentagon Makes it Harder to Discharge Gays and Lesbians Under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Pentagon Makes it Harder to Discharge Gays and Lesbians Under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Defense Secretary Robert Gates approved new rules Thursday that will make it harder to discharge gays and lesbians from the military, calling the changes a matter of "common sense and common decency." Gates announced new guidelines for how the Pentagon carries out the "don't ask, don't tell" policy rules, which impose tougher requirements for evidence used against gays and lesbians in the military. The new guidelines are effective immediately. 

Defense Secretary Robert Gates approved new rules Thursday that will make it harder to discharge gays and lesbians from the military, calling the changes a matter of "common sense and common decency."

According to the AP, Gates announced new guidelines for how the Pentagon carries out the "don't ask, don't tell" policy rules, which essentially put higher-ranking officers in charge of discharge proceedings and impose tougher requirements for evidence used against gays and lesbians in the military.

The new guidelines are effective immediately and will say that an officer at the level of a one-star general or higher must approve firing service members. This is considered a makeshift measure until Congress calls for a repeal of DADT.

It's the biggest change to the policy since Congress passed it and President Bill Clinton signed it into law in 1993.

"I believe these changes represent an important improvement in the way the current law is put into practice - above all, by providing a greater measure of common sense and common decency to a process for handling what are difficult and complex issues for all involved," Gates said at a Pentagon news conference.

Certain third party confidential information also will no longer be allowed, including statements from attorneys, clergy, psychotherapists or medical professionals. The use of "overheard statements and hearsay" will also be discouraged.

Nathaniel Frank, a senior research fellow with the Palm Center said it is unclear how much of an impact the new guidelines would have because regulations already restrict third-party allegations.

"Anything that continues to allow the discharge of service members for something that research shows has no bearing on military effectiveness will not go far enough," Frank said.

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