"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" heating up in Richmond

By Ben Garbarek - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The national debate on whether gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military is heating up in Richmond.

Richmond delegate Joe Morrissey is proposing a new bill allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the National Guard. This comes a week after a Northern Virginia delegate proposed his own bill banning homosexuals from military service.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Delegate Morrissey says he wouldn't be proposing this bill if it weren't for the bill banning gays in the military proposed earlier this month.

"It's a Neanderthal, backward policy proposal by Delegate Marshall and it has no place in Virginia," he said.  To say it's outrageous would be an understatement."

Morrissey says the US Constitution does not allow states to decide who can and cannot serve in a state militia, in this case the National Guard. He says the recent repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by Congress applies in Virginia as well.

"That's the law of the land right now," Morrissey said.

Defending his bill, Delegate Bob Marshall is afraid homosexuals serving openly in the National Guard could be distracting to troops.

This is what Marshall told NBC12 last week over the phone. "If you've got ground troops, and those are the ones who are most adamant about this, disturbed because the person in the foxhole next to them may decide to sexually assault them under certain circumstances," he said. "That's going to distract them from an enemy across the field."

Gay rights activist Judd Proctor served as a Navy Reserve in the 70's and was at the announcement this morning. He says proposing a ban on gays in the military is embarrassing for Virginia.

"It seems to put a negative stamp on Virginia again to say that a certain group of people, in this case gays and lesbians, cannot serve," he said. "That's ridiculous."

Morrissey argues you don't have to be straight, to shoot straight.

"In no profession, not a single profession, can anybody suggest that the fact that they are gay prevents them from doing their job and doing it 100 percent admirably and consistently," Morrissey said.

The General Assembly will reconvene in January where both these bills will likely be heard.

Morrissey is asking state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to denounce the proposed ban on gays in the National Guard.

Morrissey says banning gays from the military is discriminatory, much like similar bans on African-Americans serving in the past.

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