Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” at a town hall meeting at USC this afternoon, reaffirming his “personal view” that the law that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military should be repealed.

Mullen, who appeared in L.A. just before Gay Pride weekend kicks into gear throughout the city, said he has a “hard time” having people “lie about who they are” in an institution that places a unique emphasis on “integrity.”

Mullen attended the event, which was sponsored by the USC School of Social Work, to talk about war veterans' issues.

When the Q & A period started, the first question asked by the audience came from Frontiers News Editor Karen Ocamb, who wanted to know if a “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” working group was looking into the stress gay and lesbian service members deal with by not being allowed to come out of the closet.

Mullen talked around that specific issue, but said the military and Washington D.C. politicians need to “move on” and end the ban on gays and lesbians — Congress must vote on and pass the repeal, with the president signing it into law.

There were rumors this week that the gay rights group Get Equal, which had publicly confronted President Barack Obama about repeated delays to repeal the law, would hold a protest at USC.

But Get Equal co-founder Robin McGehee told L.A. Weekly at the event that “Admiral Mullen is one of the highest military officials who's spoken in favor of repeal, so we want to act respectfully. But we want to ask as many questions as possible about repeal.”

McGehee and other Get Equal activists didn't get that chance, but she did walk up to Mullen once the town hall ended. McGehee thanked the admiral for standing up for repeal and said that was why they chose not to “heckle” him.

McGehee also told him “it's hard to serve with integrity when you and you're family are being silenced.”

Tom Carpenter, a former Marine captain who sits on the board of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group that seeks to end “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” told the Weekly at the town hall meeting that Mullen “wants (the repeal) to work.” But the admiral is still trying to win over hard-liners who want to keep the status quo.

“They've now couched (the repeal) in implementation terms,” said Carpenter, “but they're really trying to get buy-in.”

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

LA Weekly