Army Secretary: Soldiers Can Still Be Discharged for Admitting They Are Gay

Army Secretary John McHugh apologized Thursday for mistakenly telling journalists the Department of Defense would place a moratorium on discharges of homosexual servicemembers, while the Pentagon conducts a year long study on the impact of changing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other military leadership have made clear they'll uphold the current law while the study is being conducted. Recently, Gates announced new standards for discharging gay servicemembers, including raising the ranks of officers who can conduct an investigation and requiring all testimony from peers and outside parties to be given under oath. But Gates never said gay service members would not be dismissed in the interim.

McHugh's comments to a defense writers group on Wednesday were published on major wire services and newspapers, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. His apology today:

"Yesterday, in response to a series of questions from reporters regarding "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", I made several statements that require further comment. First, while President Obama has asked Congress to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", it is and remains the law of the land... Second, I was incorrect when I stated that Secretary Gates had placed a moratorium on discharges of homosexual service-members. There is no moratorium of the law and neither Secretary Gates nor I would support one."

Meanwhile, the Defense Department is also updating a major snag in their study. It quickly came to realize that talking to gay soldiers about their experiences and opinions breaks the first rule of the current policy: DON'T ASK. In that same apology statement, McHugh says this:

"Third, with regard to the three soldiers who shared their views and thoughts with me on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", I might better have counseled them that statements about their sexual orientation could not be treated as confidential and could result in their separation under the law."

McHugh's mea culpa goes on to announce changes.

"The working group is likely to utilize a third party from outside of the department to solicit these views so soldiers can speak candidly and without fear of separation. I urge every soldier to share his or her views and suggestions on this important issue through this channel. This is the appropriate way to do so."

John McHugh is a former Republican congressman from New York and was sworn in as the 21st Army Secretary on September 16, 2009.