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No slow advance: Military integration of gays should come soon

Written by Susan Mannella on .

It appears to be forward march for the U.S. military since Congress repealed the "don't ask, don't tell" law last month that clumsily and unfairly forbade gay men and women to serve their country openly.

Last Friday, Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Clifford Stanley, an under secretary of defense for personnel, told Pentagon reporters that military training to implement the new law will start this month and move quickly. That is to be applauded.

But part of their briefing gave many Americans pause: They suggested that while there is no intent to delay, they could not guarantee full implementation this year. That contradicts what President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address.

It is a goal that should be met. Under the new law, final implementation goes into effect 60 days after the president and his senior defense advisers certify that the troops' ability to fight won't be compromised. With effective leadership, that process doesn't have to be drawn out.

Delay will only foster uncertainty and resentment. Theoretically, gay servicemen and -women could still be dismissed under the old law while the new one is pending. The sooner this is completed, the better for everyone.

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