* Guidelines seek precise plans within a week
* Gates has stressed change will take a while
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New Pentagon rules allowing
gays to serve openly in the U.S. military prohibit separate
bathroom facilities based on sexual orientation and say not all
benefits will be extended to same-sex dependents.
The Pentagon issued new guidelines Friday as a first
step to ending the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that forces
gays to keep their preferences secret in order to serve in the
Congress repealed the policy last month but gave the
military an unspecified amount of time to prepare the sweeping
change. President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union
address this week the change would be enforced this year.
The new guidelines ask the military top brass for precise
plans within a week to implement the policy.
It says that while some benefits such as choosing the
beneficiaries of life insurance and death gratuities are a
matter of individual preference of service personnel, federal
laws such as the Defense of Marriage Act mean certain benefits
that go to married couples will not apply to same-sex
"Strong, engaged and informed leadership will be required
at every level to implement the repeal of (Don't Ask, Don't
Tell) properly, effectively, and in a deliberate and careful
manner," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in the
"This is not, however, a change that should be done
incrementally," he said.
The memo sets out principles to mold the new policy,
focusing on respect and eliminating any discrimination that
might be based directly on sexual orientation.
Despite the congressional repeal, there has been push-back
from leadership in the military and Gates himself has stressed
that change will take a while.
"It is therefore important that our men and women in
uniform understand that while today's historic vote means that
this policy will change, the implementation and certification
process will take an additional period of time," Gates said
after the policy was repealed last month.
Marine Corps Commandant James Amos had said that
implementing the change could cost lives because of the impact
on discipline and unit cohesiveness.
More than 13,500 people have been discharged from the
military under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy since 1993.
Even after the repeal of the policy by Congress, gay rights
groups have kept pressing legal challenges because they fear
the Pentagon will be slow to implement the new policy.
(Reporting by Wendell Marsh; Editing by Greg McCune)
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