The first woman to be appointed as a three star US army general has called for the repeal of the American military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Saying that “It is time to acknowledge that our armed services are every bit as diverse as the great nation we protect,” three-star retired Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy called for the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel at a dinner for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network last week.

“Army values are taught to soldiers from their earliest days in the Army,” Kennedy told the audience of almost 700 attendees. “Those values are: Loyalty, duty, mutual respect, selfless service, honour, integrity and personal courage. We teach our soldiers that these are the values we expect them to live up to. I believe that as an institution, our military needs to live up to the values we demand of the service members. Military leaders need to respect all service members. We need to recognise that loyalty and selfless service are exhibited equally, by service members of every colour, gender and sexual orientation.”

Kennedy went on to say that, “When we ask people to hide something important about their identity, it is a challenge to their integrity and to the integrity of the institution. It is also disrespectful to them and to those with whom they serve. When we say, ‘You are good enough to serve in Iraq but you may not be openly gay.’ we break trust with all of our service members… We need to eliminate the divisive and destructive policy called ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.'”

“The debate at hand is whether or not gays should serve openly,” Kennedy said. “I ask this: openly to whom? Does anyone really believe that their peers do not already know they are gay? Does anyone really believe that their small unit commanders and other leaders do not already know they are gay? This is a hollow policy that serves no useful purpose. We have outgrown it. Our military is better than is reflected in this policy.”

Lieutenant General Kennedy was the first woman in US Army history to achieve the rank of three star General. She served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence beginning in May 1997, where she oversaw policies and operations affecting 45,000 people stationed worldwide with a budget of nearly $1 billion.

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