Senate Votes to Repeal Ban on Gays Openly Serving in Military

By: CNN Email
By: CNN Email

Washington, D.C.-- Eight Republicans and independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut joined the chamber's Democrats to back the legislation, which passed by a 65-31 margin. The bill needed a simple majority -- meaning support from 51 of the Senate's 100 members -- to pass.

"I want to thank all of the gay men and women who are fighting for us today," said Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine, one of several Republicans who voted for the measure. "We honor your service, and now we can do so openly."

President Barack Obama will sign the bill into law next week, White House press secretary said in a Twitter post moments after the Senate vote.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, applauded Congress's action, which he said "preserves the military's prerogative to implement change in a responsible, deliberate manner."

"It is the right thing to do," he said in a statement. "No longer will able men and women who want to serve and sacrifice for their country have to sacrifice their integrity to do so. We will be a better military as a result."

The House of Representatives had comfortably passed the measure -- by a 250 to 175 margin -- last Wednesday. Four days later, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, cheered the Senate for following suit.

"Today's landmark vote closes the door on a fundamental unfairness," Pelosi said in a statement. "It reflects a core principle in our nation: that anyone who wishes to serve, secure and defend this country should be welcomed, judged by their abilities, and honored for their sacrifice."

Earlier on Saturday, the lame-duck Senate session invoked cloture, meaning it cut off or limited debate on the socially historic and controversial legislation, by a vote of 63 to 33. At least 60 votes were required to overcome the procedural hurdle, and Republicans did not seek up to 30 hours of post-cloture debate, as they could have under the chamber's rules.

Saying it's "time to close this chapter in our history," Obama called the move a "historic step" toward ending the policy that denied the "service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay."

"I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known," said Obama, who thanked pro-repeal senators for their work.

"It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly," he said. "I urge the Senate to send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law."

After the cloture vote, supporters of the repeal hugged and shook hands in the corridor off the Senate floor, a celebratory mood for a Democratic caucus that will face tougher times when the new Congress convenes next year.

"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," said Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign -- a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights group. "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. We are grateful to President Obama, Majority Leader Reid and Sens. Lieberman, Collins and countless others for their dogged determination to repeal DADT."

The executive director of Servicemembers United, the nation's largest organization of gay and lesbian troops, lauded the cloture vote as a "historic step forward for this country" and "very likely be a life-changing moment for gay and lesbian troops."

Alexander Nicholson, a former multi-lingual Army interrogator discharged under the policy, said there's still "a long road ahead, citing "a final passage vote, the certification process, and a yet-to-be-determined implementation period."

But, he said, "those who defend our freedom while living in fear for their careers will finally breathe a sigh of relief tonight, and those who have fallen victim to this policy in years past will finally begin to see true closure and redemption on the horizon."

Passage of the legislation in the Senate was a political victory for Obama and the Democrats, who have called for a repeal.

The Democrats have sought Republican support for overturning the ban, and eight of them voted for a repeal including:

Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Richard Burr of North Carolina, John Ensign of Nevada and George Voinovich of Ohio.

Pentagon officials have warned gay and lesbian soldiers that the current law will temporarily remain in place if the bill passes as they review the legal technicalities of the repeal.

A guidance memo would be sent to military personnel informing them of the change, which would remain in effect for at least 60 days after it is signed into law, Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan said.

Proponents of the repeal say the current policy is discriminatory and counter-productive because thousands of service members, from linguists to troops, have been removed under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Voinovich indicated he made up his mind after the release of the Defense Department's report earlier this month on the policy.

"Having reviewed the report, I accept its findings and Secretary Gates' recommendation and reassurance that the repeal will be implemented when the battle effectiveness of our forces is assured and proper preparations have been completed."

He said the repeal "will be implemented in a common sense way" and "our military leaders have assured Congress that our troops will engage in training and address relevant issues before instituting this policy change."

Opponents say the repeal will scrap a good policy and will hurt the military's performance.

Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, cited the Marine Corps commandant as saying he believes that "changing this policy this way would cause distraction among the Marine Corps to the point that he is worried about increased casualties."

"Let's hope he's wrong," Graham said Saturday, "but you've got to ask yourself is he crazy to say that? Is he the kind of man who would make such a chilling statement without having thought about it? My advice to my colleagues is that the Marine Corps commandant is a serious man who is telling this body and this nation that repeal as being envisioned today could compromise focus on the battlefield, and we are in two wars.

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  • by Lady Ga Ga For President Location: Fantasyland on Dec 20, 2010 at 02:56 PM
    Next thing you know the government will hire openly gay teachers to instruct our children about homosexuality. Watch and see.
  • by RetiredMarine Location: Tallahassee on Dec 20, 2010 at 02:28 PM
    Why do so many of you liberal misfits confuse distaste and revulsion with fear. The last thing to fear is a homosexual. Revile and hate yes, fear no....
  • by Anonymous on Dec 20, 2010 at 07:40 AM
    HMA - Do you believe that homosexuals are going to jump out of their tanks and start dancing to RuPaul in the middle of the desert? You are trying to force all gay people into some media created stereotype. I promise you that there are more than a few homosexuals that you deal with everyday and you don't even know it. It is humorous to me that you actually believe that are different in other ways. If you have a problem with them, it is because you are scared of something that you have in your closet.
  • by Hank Location: Tallahassee on Dec 20, 2010 at 07:14 AM
    The problem with this is that the majority of people have no idea what is going on. They are brainwashed by the media that being gay is normal and a "good" thing. Homosexuals are known for being promiscuous. History has shown us that having homosexuals in the military puts the military MORE AT RISK. The homosexuals don't care if you're the enemy or not. They just want "someone". They are know to "turn over" (pardon the pun) to the other side more quickly than straight men. This is a known historical fact. This is all about politics and obingomama trying to get brownie points. Disaster in waiting. Being christian has nothing to do with it. I am not a christian, I just know what is natural and what is unnatural. Put them all on an island and they will die out because they cannot reproduce. How natural and normal is that? NOT!
  • by HMA on Dec 20, 2010 at 06:37 AM
    The only opinions that should matter on this issue are from those who have been or are in the military. Every person I know who falls into these categories is strongly opposed to allowing openly gay men to serve. Yes, there is a double standard. My father is a retired combat Marine. He did 2 tours in Vietnam and has multiple confirmed kills. According to him, there are many issues that those who have not experienced military life don't understand. I see this as a lawsuit waiting to happen: gay guy joins to make a point, he then flaunts his gayness and is beat and or killed by his fellow soldiers. How is this good?
  • by Anonymous on Dec 20, 2010 at 05:37 AM
    ETurnage - what are you scared of? You would quit the military if you knew there was a gay man beside you? You do realize there were dozens of them, but you didn't know it. You do realize that you have probably seen a dentist, a doctor, a teacher, a store clerk who was gay? Did they do a poor job because of their sexual orientation? I'm a straight man, but it baffles me that so many are scared of what another person does behind closed doors. We don't restrict those who like soap operas, or eat pizza, so why restrict this? It was silly to begin with. Christianity is a cult that has destroyed this planet.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 20, 2010 at 05:34 AM
    This policy violated everything the US stands for. It shocks me that it was every allowed in the first place. Does it really matter what others do in their free time? Right, it doesn't! About time there was a change.
  • by trey Location: tallahassee on Dec 19, 2010 at 09:01 PM
    I agree another sad day
  • by ETurnage Location: Tallahassee on Dec 19, 2010 at 03:23 PM
    Now you've done it. All of you who supported this issue need to run on down to the recruiting offices and fill the gaps that are sure to come. Can't expect any of you to actually serve though can we? I guess that means the death of the all volunteer armed forces and compulsory service like all of those nations that already allow homosexuals to serve have...Stupid, stupid people to push an agenda with so much impact and so little merit. Over two decades of service and I wouldn't have served a day under these circumstances. Bigot? No. Just have a moral bent and completely abhor homosexuals and the deviant lifestyle that they choose to lead. Merry Christmas folks and I wish you the type of New Year that each of you individually merit.
  • by maurice Location: thomasville on Dec 19, 2010 at 02:10 PM
    They protect and serve in Law Enforcement with no problem so why is the Senate wasting time with this. Let them serve, if a man or woman is willing to die for their country, who cares who they sleep with.
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