North Country Congressman Bill Owens was in Tupper Lake Monday afternoon, where he toured new medical facilities run by the Adirondack Medical Center.
Following his visit, the Democrat said he supports the U.S. Senate's decision to repeal the policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which long barred gays and lesbians from openly serving in the U.S. armed forces.
Owens represents New York's 23rd Congressional District and is a veteran himself.
He says he's pleased that the Senate finally acted on the repeal bill, which was originally included in the Defense Authorization bill. The DADT bill was removed from the larger legislation at the Senate's insistence and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week.
The Senate passed a stand alone bill over the weekend repealing DADT.
Owens is confident that President Barack Obama will swiftly sign the landmark legislation.
"I'm sure the president will be signing it," he said. "It was one of his priorities. I think it makes a great deal of sense. We went through the process, the military studied it; we had good reports from the survey and from Secretary Gates. We also had input from senior members of the military, including Admiral Mullen. I'm very comfortable that those folks believe there will be no adverse impact on our mission."
As a veteran, Owens says the issue of gays and lesbians serving openly never affected him personally during his time of service.
"To be truthful with you, in my experience, the issue never came up," he said. "I'm sure I did serve with people who were gay and lesbian, but it was not obvious to me; no one was ever inappropriate from my perspective and I don't see it causing - as a former member of the military - any significant issues."
Owens says that even more telling than his perspective is the view of his 87-year-old father - who served as a gunner in World War II.
"There was a lot written in the paper a couple months ago about DADT and we were sitting at the table chatting and I said 'what do you think?'" he said. "And he said 'about what?' In other words, this is not an issue. Here's a guy who wasn't concerned about who you would expect might be a little more conservative."
For Owens, detractors of the move to repeal DADT aren't listening to surveys conducted of armed service men and women, showing that a substantial majority of them won't be fazed by the decision to end the ban on open service.