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September 24, 2010

‘Don’t ask’ repeal fails by four votes

Washington, D.C.--The Senate failed by four votes to break a filibuster on the National Defense Authorization Act on September 21, leaving the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law in limbo until after the midterm elections, at least.

According to progressive organizations, the votes to bring cloture had been lined up among moderate Republicans until Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid last week used procedural privilege to block the ability of the minority party to put forward amendments to the bill for consideration.

The move immediately cost the measure the support of the moderate Republicans. No one from the GOP voted for cloture, which required 60 votes. The measure failed with 56 votes to 43 against.

In addition, Arkansas’ Democratic Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln both voted no, and Reid himself voted no for procedural reasons.

Ohio’s Republican Sen. George Voinovich, who may have voted to end the filibuster had Reid not blocked any amendments, voted no. Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, a staunch LGBT ally, voted yes.

After the vote, during a press opportunity in his office, Sen. John McCain, who led the filibuster, denied that the military actively investigates personnel who have not disclosed their sexual orientation, repeating in an almost childish manner, “It is not the policy. It is not the policy. It is not the policy.”

The vote came a day after pop star Lady Gaga made her latest impassioned appeal for the repeal of DADT during a rally in Portland, Maine. Both of Maine’s senators are moderate Republicans who had been strong possibilities to vote for cloture.

Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, was disappointed at the result of the vote. The group noted in a release that the votes were there until Reid’s political maneuvering.

“Today’s vote is a failure of leadership on the part of those who have been duly elected to serve this nation and put the best interests of the country ahead of partisan politics,” he said. “The Senate could learn a good lesson from those who serve in uniform and who stand to benefit from proceeding to debate on this bill - serving this country means putting politics aside and getting the job done. It is simply inexcusable that this vote failed today.”

The DADT repeal was passed by the House earlier this year as part of the defense money bill. It would have repealed the legal mandate for the policy, passed by Congress in 1993, but would not have immediately ended it. For that, it required the president, defense secretary and Joint Chiefs chair to certify no harm to the military after the Pentagon completes a study of its effects, and then another 60day wait. The study is due in December but could take longer.

The vote was less than two weeks after a federal judge in Riverside, California ruled that the DADT was unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips ruled that it violated the First Amendment and due process protections. She also noted that the policy was detrimental to the armed services, and the military ignored the policy whenever it chose, delaying discharges until service members completed their tours of duty in combat zones.

The lawyers for the Log Cabin Republicans, who filed the suit, on September 16 asked Judge Phillips for an injunction blocking any further discharges under the policy. The Justice Department had until September 23 to file a response to the request for injunctive relief. The department had not indicated at press time whether it would appeal the decision or move against the injunction.

Another case challenging DADT is being heard in U.S. District Court in in Tacoma, Washington, where Major Margaret Witt has sued the Pentagon following her discharge from the Air Force.

In that case, author Nathaniel Frank testified that other nations have successfully integrated gay and lesbian personnel into their militaries with little friction. Frank wrote the book Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America. |


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