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Powell supports ending DADT

WASHINGTON _ The effort to repeal the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) law received a boost of support from Gen. Colin Powell today.

Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1990s, supported the law’s passage, but has since changed his position, citing that “attitudes and circumstances have changed.”

"I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense (Robert) Gates and Admiral (Michael) Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," Powell said.

President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to repealing DADT during a speech at a Human Rights Campaign dinner, and repeated that during his State of Union address last month.

“We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve this country,” Obama said. “We should be celebrating their willingness to show such courage and selflessness on behalf of their fellow citizens, especially when we're fighting two wars.

“We cannot afford to cut from our ranks people with the critical skills we need to fight any more than we can afford -- for our military's integrity -- to force those willing to do so into careers encumbered and compromised by having to live a lie,” Obama said.

The president now can add Powell’s name to his list of influential supporters of repealing DADT.

“General Powell has made clear that his position is about effectiveness in the military,” said Joe Solmonese, HRC president. “His powerful voice for ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a tipping point in favor of the brave men and women who are serving our nation in silence.

“The support of respected present and former military leaders brings us closer to repeal, signaling that we’re moving forward and will get there soon. Opposing repeal now means second-guessing some of our nation’s top military leaders, including the Joint Chiefs chairman who opposed open service in the 1990s when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell became law,” Solmonese said.

“I want to ask the senators and members who are speaking out against this repeal. What do you know about military effectiveness that General Powell, Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen and the Commander in Chief don’t know?”