McCain challenges gays in military

A leading Republican senator yesterday claimed a US military study on gays was flawed and that letting them serve openly would be dangerous in a time of war.

In a direct challenge to the Pentagon's top officials, Senator John McCain's opposition comes ahead of a Senate debate on a bill that would overturn the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bans gays from serving openly in the military.

Senator McCain, the Republican presidential candidate in 2008 and a former Navy pilot, comes from a long family line of service in the military and has helped block previous debate on the issue.

Advocates of repeal had hoped that this week's Pentagon study would weaken Republican resistance to the bill. The study found that the overwhelming majority of troops were not against a repeal.

But among those who did care, most were troops performing combat duties. Nearly 60 per cent of those in the Marine Corps and in Army combat units said they thought repeal would hurt their units' ability to fight on the battlefield.

Mr McCain seized on this finding to argue that forcing such a substantial change in a time of war would be wrong for the military and the US. He also criticised the study for scrutinising only how the law could be repealed, and not whether doing so would benefit the military.