In a major victory for gay rights advocates as well as President Obama, the Senate today voted to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning gay men and women from serving openly in the military.
Now that the repeal bill has overcome its final hurdle in Congress, the president is expected to sign the measure into law next week, bringing to an end the 17-year-old policy and delivering Mr. Obama a victory on one of his chief campaign promises.
The Senate voted 65 to 31 to pass the repeal, after overcoming a Republican filibuster earlier in the day by a vote of 63 to 33. The House passed its version of the bill on Wednesday.
Eight Republicans joined nearly every Democrat to vote for repeal. The Republicans voting for repeal were Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), John Ensign (Nev.), Richard Burr (N.C.) and George Voinovich (Ohio).
It was the third Senate vote on the matter, after two previous votes — in which the measure was attached to a defense authorization bill — failed amid procedural objections from Republicans who said they were sympathetic to appeal.
The president released a statement praising the Senate’s actions and arguing that the “don’t ask” policy undermines national security and violates American ideals. He said he is confident the military can responsibly transition to the new policy while ensuring its strength and readiness.
“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,” Mr. Obama said. “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.”
During debate over the repeal this morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid quoted the late Sen. Barry Goldwater: “You don’t have to be straight to shoot straight,” he said.
“The fact is removing a form of legalized discrmination from our books is not a liberal or conservative idea, it’s not a Democratic or Republican idea,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the sponsor of the legislation. “It’s an American idea consistent with American values.”