Sunday, December 19, 2010

Don't Ask Don't Tell Passes Both Houses of Congress

The Boston Globe reported today on the Senate vote that finally passed the end of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy that affected so many gay and lesbian members of the military in recent decades. (111 HR 2965 and 111 S4023 which will become P.L. 111- ?; See Wikipedia article for a role-call vote) It was a lousy compromise policy when it was promulgated during the Clinton presidency, and has remained a terrible policy since. It has resulted in the dismissal from the military of too many willing members in high-need positions simply because their sexual orientation came to be known. The new policy just voted in is much better. It no longer matters. And I am glad that it's a legislative policy, rather than a judicial decision, though I was worried that it would not actually come to pass. Well done, and thank you to the handful of Republicans who listened to their constituents, and represented their interests.

Jubilant supporters likened the vote to President Harry Truman’s 1948 order to desegregate the military: “We’ll some day look back and wonder what took Washington so long to fix it,’’ said US Senator John F. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Maine Senator Susan Collins, a Republican who was among a small group of senators who led the repeal fight in the Senate, thanked gay troops now serving in Afghanistan and Iraq: “We honor your service, and now we can do so openly.’’

(snip) “It is time to close this chapter in our history,’’ Obama said in a prepared statement after the vote. “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.’’

(snip) The Senate vote completed a remarkable political turnaround for the “don’t ask’’ repeal authorization, which looked dead just 10 days ago after the Senate failed by three votes to approve a massive defense spending bill that included language to end the policy.

Several senators on the record in favor of repeal, including (Massachusetts Senator Scott) Brown, helped block the defense bill over procedural complaints. But in the immediate aftermath of that crushing defeat, repeal supporters gathered for one last effort.

They decided to push a stand-alone bill to reverse the policy, racing against the clock before Congress adjourned for the year.

The House last week easily approved the bill by a vote of 250 to 175, setting up yesterday’s drama in the Senate.

(snip) The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, whose call earlier this year to change the law swayed many skeptics, said he believes the US military will be stronger as a result of the congressional action. “No longer will able men and women who want to serve and sacrifice for their country have to sacrifice their integrity to do so,’’ Mullen said.
To those of us who support this change, it seems clear that this is a civil rights issue. In a few decades, we will look back and wonder why it was such a big issue and why it took so long!

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