U.S. Senate votes to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy

December 19th, 2010 - 4:07 am ICT by BNO News  

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — A controversial policy which bans openly gay, lesbian, and bisexuals from serving in the U.S. military is coming to an end after the U.S. Senate voted to repeal it.

The vote came just days after the U.S. House passed the repeal bill in a 250-175 vote, with fifteen Republicans supporting the measure. On Saturday, the U.S. Senate voted to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in a 65-31 vote, which included the support of eight Republicans.

The bill will now have to go through a review process and both President Barack Obama and Pentagon officials must certify that lifting the ban will not adversely affect the military. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama would sign the repeal into law some time next week.

Earlier on Saturday, the U.S. Senate had voted 63-33 for cloture on the repeal, which brought debate on the issue to a quick end. “Today, America lived up to its highest ideals of freedom and equality. Congress recognized that all men and women have the right to openly serve their country,” Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Joe Solmonese said after the first vote. “Plenty of people had already planned the funeral for this legislation. Today, we pulled out a victory from what was almost certain defeat just a few days ago.”

Obama also marked the first vote as ‘an historic step forward’. “Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend,” the President said in a statement released by the White House. “By ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.”

Obama said the repeal of DADT will underscore the professionalism of the nation’s troops as ‘the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known.’ He said he was confident that the government could responsibly transition to the new policy.

“It is time to close this chapter in our history. It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed,” Obama added. “It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly. I urge the Senate to send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law.”

The vote to repeal DADT was welcomed by many as right groups had campaigned for years to end the ban. “This long-awaited action is an important step toward allowing gays, lesbians, and bisexuals to serve openly and honorably in the armed forces,” said American Psychological Association President Carol D. Goodheart, EdD. “Repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy will lift a heavy psychological burden of secrecy from gay, lesbian and bisexual military personnel.”

DADT became official policy in December 1993, restricting the U.S. military from efforts to discover or repeal closeted gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members or applicants. Openly gay, lesbian, or bisexuals are barred from the military under the policy.

The new policy was first announced by President Bill Clinton on July 19, 1993 when he gave a speech at the National Defense University at Fort McNair. “I believe the policy I am announcing today represents a real step forward, but I know it will raise concerns in some of your minds,” Clinton said at the time, referring to a policy which at the time barred any - openly or closeted - gay, lesbian, or bisexual to service in the military.

In the 90s, some service members returning from the Gulf war announced their homosexuality in protest of the military ban. “For people who are willing to play by the rules, able to serve and make a contribution, I believed then and I believe now we should give them the chance to do so,” Clinton said during his speech, saying there is no study which shows homosexuals to be less capable or more prone to misconduct than heterosexual soldiers.

But Clinton did not move to lift the ban on gays entirely. “The experience of other nations and police and fire departments in the United States indicates that most homosexuals would probably not declare their sexual orientation openly, thereby making an already hard life even more difficult in some circumstances,” he said.

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