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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 17, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 51
Progress as House votes 250-175 to repeal DADT
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Progress as House votes 250-175 to repeal DADT

Repeal heads back to the Senate as servicemembers plan sit-in

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

The House voted 250-175 on December 15 to repeal the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT) policy, sending the issue to the Senate for what could be the last chance (for now) to end the 1993 law that forbids Gays from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces.

Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a vote on the DADT repeal bill for Saturday, December 18.

On December 16, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) announced servicemembers will sit in the Senate Gallery until DADT is defeated. 'Servicemembers are making it absolutely clear that senators need to stay in town until repeal is passed. We simply cannot let the clock run out and lose this historic opportunity. We need 60 votes to complete the bill and send it directly to the president's desk. We need to fight back on any amendments, as a change to the language will cause further delay,' said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for SLDN.

Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut is planning to joined SLDN as they announce their sit-in on December 17.

Lieberman believes there are at least 61 votes to repeal the ban. Lieberman (who has been leading negotiations with Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine on the legislation) called further delay unacceptable.

"We've got not 60, but now 61 members of the U.S. Senate publicly committed to the repeal of DADT," said Lieberman. "So all that will stop the repeal is a totally unacceptable refusal to bring our measure up in a timely way. We've got to get this done. We can get it done. It's an injustice. It's time for it to go."

With 61 senators supporting the repeal of DADT, the bill is cleared for passage if Democrats can bring it to a vote before the holidays. Failure to overturn the policy this year could relegate the issue to the back burner next year, when Republicans - who are far less supportive of allowing openly Gay individuals to serve in the military - take over the House and expand their power in the Senate.

The timing of a potential vote on the legislation remains uncertain as lawmakers race to dispose of other major items in the days left before Christmas.

If repealed, The White House, in issuing a statement in support of the repeal, stressed that the change would go into effect only after the president, the secretary of defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that implementation is consistent with military readiness, retention, and unit cohesion.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs declared December 16 that "I believe we have the votes" to allow Gay troops to serve openly in the military.

The comments came after several Republican senators announced they were ready to vote in favor of the stand-alone bill. Senators Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska both said December 16 they would support it. Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine said December 15 that she would back it.

In recent weeks, the issue has split the military. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other senior military leaders support lifting the restrictions on Gay service, citing a recent Pentagon study which shows that most people in uniform don't object to serving with Gays and Lesbians. But the head of the Marine Corps, Commandant General James Amos, says that lifting the ban during wartime could cost lives.

"I don't want to lose any Marines to the distraction," he said this week.

Joe Solmonese, Human Rights Campaign president, said the December 15 vote means the House has confirmed - for the second time - what military leaders, most troops, and the American public have been saying: that "the only thing that matters on the battlefield is the ability to do the job."

"It is up to the Senate to consign this failed and discriminatory law to the dustbin of history," he added.

Since the law was implemented in 1993, more than 13,500 servicemembers have been dismissed under DADT.

The Obama administration, while supporting the repeal, is appealing the ruling of a California federal judge that the ban on Gays serving openly in the military is unconstitutional. The administration says Congress should overturn the policy, but Gay rights groups say they will shift their focus back to the courts if Congress fails to act.

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