Hatch revisits issue of gays in military

Clarification » He says he does not support a repeal.
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Sen. Orrin Hatch says the left-leaning media misconstrued his comments in a TV interview Wednesday that seemed to imply he would be open to repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which requires gay service members to keep their sexual orientations secret.

"I certainly do not support repealing this policy," he said in a statement trying to clarify his views and blasting activist groups for "misconstruing my position."

Liberal blogs and some Washington media outlets pounced on comments Hatch made in an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell saying it showed Republicans were not unified in their opposition to the repeal.

President Barack Obama called for an end to the policy in his State of the Union address and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, surprised many, by saying he personally supports the change during a Senate hearing.

Colin Powell, a former joint chief and secretary of state under Republican presidents, also changed his position on the issue and backed the repeal Wednesday.

Mitchell asked Hatch, a Utah Republican, about his position on the controversial issue.

"I believe there are very outstanding, patriotic gay people who serve in the military and they ought to be given credit for it. And they shouldn't have to lie about being gay," Hatch said on MSNBC. "On the other hand, I think a lot of people are concerned that if you do away with the don't ask, don't tell, that literally then they'll come back and ask for special rights and preferences and privileges that others don't have. I don't see that either. So, like I say, I just plain do not believe in prejudice of any kind."

Mitchell then asked: "So you're willing to vote for the change?"

"Well I don't know about that, I'd have to look at it," said Hatch, who said he wanted to review Mullen's recommendations. "I can see why people on both sides are upset, but I just want to do what's right."

Mitchell said, "I can put you down as being open to it?," to which Hatch replied: "I am."

Hatch's office said what he meant was he is open to reviewing Mullen's report, but remains skeptical of fully integrating gays into the military.