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WASHINGTON — An Army general who co-directed a Pentagon study on ending the ban on gays serving openly in the military said Wednesday that repeal is likely to prove "pretty inconsequential."
Gen. Carter Ham said he expects civilians who strongly oppose the move — and some gay rights advocates — will voice their views when the repeal takes Tuesday. But inside the military the prevailing attitude likely will be business-as-usual, with no call for further debate about the merits of repeal, he said.
"My hope, my expectation, my belief is that it will be pretty inconsequential," he told The Associated Press in a brief interview. His comments echoed the prevailing view among senior U.S. military and civilian officials at the Pentagon, who think repeal will largely be taken in stride.
Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, co-chaired a Pentagon group that in 2010 studied how to implement a repeal law, which was subsequently passed by Congress in December. Some in Congress, including House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., have criticized President Obama's decision in July to certify that repeal of the ban would not harm the military's ability to fight.
Homosexuality has been prohibited in the military since World War I, and for years recruits were screened and questioned about their sexual orientation. President Clinton relaxed the policy in 1993, saying the military could not ask recruits or serving members about their sexual orientation, and gays could serve as long as they did not openly disclose their status. That law became known as "don't ask, don't tell."
The Army's new chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, said last week that he does not expect to make any public pronouncement when repeal takes effect next week.
"We're beyond that now," Odierno said. "I'm not concerned it. I think we'll be OK."