Rep. Barney Frank, one of two openly gay congressmen from Massachusetts, says keeping silent about sexual orientation may be an acceptable condition for gays in the military.
"The right of a Marine to declare his membership in the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and wear the appropriate insignia has never been part of this issue," Frank told the Boston Globe.
"We are not talking about people who are burning with the desire to announce their sexual orientation," the Democrat said. "That's not why you go into the military."
President Clinton wants to lift the ban on gays serving in the military. Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) has proposed a "don't ask, don't tell" policy that would allow gays to serve in secret, but the ban would remain in place.
Some people have characterized the gays-in-the-military issue as one of fundamental civil rights, but Frank said that it goes further than that.
"That's important, but you also have the lives of the young men and women who have volunteered to serve their country who happen to be gay men and lesbians," he said. "And I think the primary goal for people like myself should be to protect their rights and their lives, rather than to worry about broader symbolic implications."