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By Catharine Richert October 12, 2009

Levin claims that other Western countries have lifted their bans

President Barack Obama has repeatedly said that he plans to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" rule, which prevents openly gay and lesbian people from serving in the military.
 
But so far, no go.
 
Meet the Press host David Gregory asked Michigan Democrat Carl Levin, who chairs the Senate's Armed Services Committee, whether Obama would follow through on his promise.
 
"I think he will and he can," Levin said on the program on Oct. 11, 2009. "I think it has to be done in the right way, which is to get a buy-in from the military, which I think is now possible. Other militaries in the West, the British and other Western armies, have ended this discriminatory policy. We can do it successfully."
 
Before we dig into Levin's claim that other Western countries have already repealed similar policies, some background: On the campaign trail, Obama wrote an open letter to the LGBT — lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — community, stating that, as president, he would "bring about real change for all LGBT Americans." Chief among his efforts would be a repeal of the military's rule, one that was put into place during the Clinton administration.
 
That's easier said than done, however. Obama cannot simply undo "don't ask, don't tell" — it must be repealed by Congress. So, when Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in March 2009 that the administration was not actively pursuing a rule change, we gave Obama a Stalled on our Obameter for his promise to overturn the policy.
 
The issue was back in the news Oct. 11 when Obama spoke at a gathering of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. He told the group: "I'm working with the Pentagon, its leadership and the members of the House and Senate on ending this policy."
 
Levin hopes the policy will change. To underscore his optimism, he pointed out that the United States wouldn't be the first country to repeal laws banning gays from the military.
 
Australia ended its ban on homosexuals in the military in 1992, as did Canada.
 
Levin is also right that Britain does not prohibit gays and lesbians from serving. Its ban was lifted in 2000, when the European Court of Human Rights settled a two-year legal battle involving four homosexual service members.
 
All told, at least 25 Western countries have no ban on gays and lesbians in the military, according to the Palm Center, a public policy think tank associated with the University of California at Santa Barbara. As of June 2009, that list includes Germany, Austria, Spain, Finland and France.
 
So, Levin is correct that other Western countries, including Britain, have ended policies that prevent gays and lesbians from serving openly. We give him a True.

Our Sources

Meet the Press, transcript from Oct. 11, 2009, show

C-SPAN, President Barack Obama addressed the Human Rights Campaign , Oct. 10, 2009

CBS News, In U.K. Military, Gay Pride Shine s, by Daniel Carty, July 27, 2009

New York Times, Australia Ends a Prohibition On Homosexuals in Military , November 24, 1992

New York Times, Canada Ending Anti-Gay Army Rules , By Clyde H. Farnsworth, Oct. 11, 1991

Organizing for America, open letter to the LGBT community , accessed Oct. 11, 2009

Palm Center, Countries that Allow Military Service by Openly Gay People , accessed Oct. 11, 2009

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Levin claims that other Western countries have lifted their bans

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