The following story, concerning ROA's official stance on the U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, appears in Army Times' March 1, 2010 issue. The story is available to subscribers only, and can be accessed here.
Reserve group: Neutrality on gay ban misinterpreted
By Rick Maze
The 88-year-old Reserve Officers Association finds itself an unlikely central player in the debate over gays in the military — all because the group voted Feb. 10 not to have an opinion on the subject.
At its national convention in Washington, D.C., the 63,000-member group voted not to renew a longstanding resolution that supported a ban on military service by gays that is stricter than current law. But the group also rejected a new resolution that specifically would have expressed support for the current law and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
The end result: “Right now we do not have a position on this issue, and I am not sure when or if we will have one,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. David Bockel, ROA’s executive director. “We don’t have a policy.” The resolution supporting the ban, first enacted in 2004 and renewed in 2007, was not the only one allowed to expire, said Marshall Hanson, ROA’s legislative director. Resolutions supporting NATO, updating the Army’s education and promotion systems, an increase in the size of the Coast Guard and tighter controls on payday loans to service members also expired.
But none of the other expired resolutions — or new ones that call for improving health care benefits for reservists, reimbursing more drill-related expenses and supporting development of a new heavy bomber — attracted as much attention as the move to drop the resolution that called on Congress to flatly exclude gays from entering or staying in the military.
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said ROA’s action “is a breakthrough for proponents of repealing” law and policy.
Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., an Army veteran and former ROA member whose membership has lapsed, said the group took a “principled stand” in bringing the U.S. “one step closer toward respecting duty and sacrifice of all service members.” Murphy is the chief House sponsor of legislation that would lift the military’s ban on open service by gay troops.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., chief sponsor of Senate legislation that would repeal the prohibition on open service by gays, said she was “pleased and proud to see the Reserve Officers Association take this important step to make our country stronger morally and militarily.” Such statements have Bockel and Marshall chagrined and a lit tle miffed. Some of ROA’s more conservative members are not pleased that media reports infer that the association supports the Obama administration’s drive to change current law.
“We are not endorsing a repeal of the gay ban,” Bockel stressed.
The soonest that ROA could approve a position on gays in the military would be in June, when its executive committee meets.