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'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal Passes Senate, But Change Will Take Time

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After months of fits and starts, a bill repealing "don't ask, don't tell," the ban against gays serving openly in the military, passed the Senate 65 to 31 on Saturday.

Eight Republicans -- Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mark Kirk of Illinois, John Ensign of Nevada, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and George Voinovich of Ohio -- joined 57 members of the Democratic caucus in support of the historic measure. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) did not vote Saturday, but released a statement saying he could not support repeal "at this time."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that President Obama will sign the bill this week.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the lead Senate sponsor of the bill, framed the issue as a civil rights imperative, calling the ban on gays in the military "inconsistent with basic American values."

"To force the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy on the military is to force them to be less than they want to be -- and less than they can be," Lieberman said Saturday. "These people simply want to serve their country." Under the Clinton-era policy, armed services members are expected to keep their sexual orientation private, with the promise that recruiters and officers will not delve into their personal lives.

President Obama applauded the Senate and said "thousands of patriotic Americans" would no longer have to "live a lie" to serve in the military.

During the debate Saturday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he was alarmed by the number of Arabic and Farsi linguists who had been discharged under the policy at a time the military needs them most, noting that nearly 10,000 of the 14,000 men and women forced out since 1993 were language specialists.

"I don't care who you love. If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you should be able to serve as you are," Wyden said. "Today the Senate has the opportunity to be on the right side of history. 'Don't ask, don't tell' is a wrong that should never have been perpetrated."
At a congressional hearing earlier this month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen testified that lifting the DADT policy would likely have only a limited impact on the services. They said they preferred congressional action -- which would give the military some time to implement the change -- to a judicial decision, which would alter the policy immediately.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, cited that testimony, as well as the results of a Pentagon study on implementing the change, as the reasons he believed ending the policy that bans gays from serving openly is the right thing to do.

"The final report of a working group concluded that changing the policy would present a low risk to the military's effectiveness, even during a time of war, and that 70 percent believe it would be positive, mixed or no effect," Levin said. "The troops told us that what matters is doing the job."

But several Republicans on the Armed Services panel disagreed with Levin and stood up Saturday to vocally oppose changing the policy.

Sen. John McCain, a former Navy flier and POW during the Vietnam war, had filibustered the repeal bill throughout the year. Yet he said he was resigned to the fact that it would pass an earlier test vote Saturday.

But McCain (R-Ariz.) said he remained convinced that repealing the ban would cost American lives.

"I understand the other side's argument about their social political agenda, but to somehow argue that ['don't ask, don't tell'] has harmed our military is not consistent with the facts," he said.

Although McCain said he was confident that the military will comply with a change in the law, he warned that troops will be put at greater risk as a result. "They will do what is asked of them, but don't think it won't be at great cost," he said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a JAG officer in the Air Force Reserves, excoriated the bill's proponents for pushing forward with the change when the military is fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"You care more about politics...than you care about governing this country," Graham said.

Now that the bill has passed the House and Senate, it goes to Obama to be signed into law some time next week.

But a change in the law will not automatically change the policy. Rather, the bill stipulates that the policy will only be discarded after the president, the Secretary of Defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that changing it will not hurt the armed services' readiness, morale or cohesion. After a 60-day review by Congress, the Pentagon is to develop procedures for ending it altogether, a process that could take months or years to complete.

Sen. Levin said he would be watching the military carefully as the certification and implementation process moves forward. But he could not yet say how long would be too long.

"I just think we'll know it when we see it," Levin told Politics Daily. "But right now we've got to just be optimistic and be confident, particularly with these leaders." Levin credited Mullen's early support of repeal for giving the legislative process momentum when it needed it most.

"I don't have any doubt that he is going to be pushing this quickly and at the appropriate speed and in the appropriate way," Levin said. "This is a totally doable deal."

Sen. Collins told Politics Daily that she expects it to take months, not years, but said that the military needs time to create and hold training sessions for servicemembers and to work through any issues associated with the implementation.

But Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), an early advocate for repeal this year, said Congressional passage of the bill makes one immediate change in military policy.

"No one will be dismissed under this policy ever again," she said.

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With the Military being ALL VOLUNTEER, and billets are being filled, now, if the straight people decide they do not wish to volunteer to serve in a Military with openly serveing gays, will they be allowed to leave the Military? And if this happens in large numbers will the Draft have to be brought back to fill billets? Just a thought from a reired Vet.

December 23 2010 at 9:00 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Jim's comment

I seriously doubt the draft will be brought back. I doubt also that there will be a big problem with gays serving openly in the military either. I would expect the military to tell anyone who wished to leave that they serve out the enlistment they agreed on when they signed up.I served at a time in the military when it wasn't popular to have blacks in the same outfits as whites. Integration took place anyway. Sure there was a lot of moaning and groaning on the part of whites as well as blacks, but gradually the military got used to the integration of blacks in to the same outfits and barracks as whites.

December 25 2010 at 1:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jim, you're assuming every heterosexual in the military is a homophobe. The military will do just fine without them when their contracts are up. For now, the homophobes signed a contract and they are obligated to fulfill it. Once they leave, watch for a marked improvement in peer-discipline as more tolerant people enlist and the out-dated haters leave.

January 02 2011 at 5:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We are no longer a nation under God! We have become a nation who is run by a secular humanist president and a majority in congress who believe in a man centered world. When we turn our back on God's will then we are lost. Jesus said if you do not do the father's will I will not know you. It clearly states in Leviticus that homosexuality is not allowed. This should come as no surprise from a president which has a problem mentioning God's name in his speeches. God gives us personal choice to obey him or not but when a nation chooses to rule without God then that nation is doomed. It is unfortunate that this congress and president have decided to govern for the 20% of the population that share their ideology and ignore the majority of people who do not. This is no longer a government working with the consent of the majority of the people. We need to vote them all out and as soon as we can repeal this abomination!

December 22 2010 at 12:43 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mrscaptndavid's comment

Progress cannot wait for the common herd. Tradition breakers must pay the penelty of persecution. The cross was not a favorite citizen award given Jesus by the Jeruselem Chamber of Commerce. Written by William Penn Patrick.

As for the will of God that's a scary thought coming from what I perceive as a strict fundamentalist so called Christian. You no more know the will of God than the next individual. God is in the picture with our nation. We need, however, keep a watchfull eye on keeping church and state separate.

And by the wayt, this government is "working with the consent of the majority of the people".

December 25 2010 at 1:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't get most of these people. The military has a code of conduct - which applies to everyone - and that includes any sexual behavior. Just because they lifted don't ask don't tell does NOT mean suddenly everyone is going to display sexual behavior. That's crazy - I have several friends who served in Viet Nam, and a few in the Gulf War - all who are gay. Only a jerk would think that someone who is gay and serving in the miltary would want to come on to them - for heaven's sake most of the time you are worried about your life and where the enemy is! The LAST thing on your mind is looking at someone and thinking they are sexy in the middle of conflict! Get real people. And every other civilized military doesn't care if gays serve - including Isreal. AND when we have coalition partners, our military is already serving with "out" gays and lesbians. So what's the deal, other than wanting to make a group of bigots feel warm and fuzzy with the idea that they don't have to serve with anyone slightly different than them. Most of the time, when someone is screaming the loudest, they are compensating for something deep inside of themselves that they are trying to hide. I know plenty of straight men who are secure enough with themselves that they don't feel threatened in the least. So what is it? Are men secure in who they are, or are they themselves hiding something that they need to overcompensate for?

December 22 2010 at 11:54 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

@rnt9984 and the apparently "many other" people like them: i really think you and a lot of other people out there are taking this way more serious than need be. everyone is acting like gay people dont serve.. trust me, the ones that are serving now are the ones that will continue to serve.. theres not going to be a huge rush of gay people at the recruiters office when this thing fully goes thru so idk why youre worried.. i mean it cracks me up because most of the time if a member if your unit is gay.. most people already know.. haha plus the biggest thing, can we grow up? its almost 2011, grow up and learn to be tolerant of people around you.. all they are trying to do is keep important, educated, and much needed men and women from getting discharged because of what they do outside of work..

December 20 2010 at 1:31 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

I would like to know from those who've never served but are against allowing gay people to openly serve, how to be an effective leader of troops without knowing a thing about their personal lives. How would you go about preventing depression or acts of emotional aggression due to personal stress. Two answers are taken off the table: "It's none of my business" (because it's not true) and "I'm not their mother--not my responsibility" (it IS your responsibility).

For those who have served but are against gays, I ask you: Have you ever been a leader of men and women? Do you feel you can do a proper leadership job if you don't know the truth of your troop's distress? Do you think it's fair to the unit, with failure imminent? Thanks.

December 19 2010 at 7:56 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Next thing you know, they'll let women folk in!!!

Oh wait, they did that. Worked out OK. Huh!

December 19 2010 at 6:29 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Gay or straight? I don't care. Just do your job.

December 19 2010 at 4:48 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Let the law suits begin. Sue this nation into oblivion. It deserves it.

December 19 2010 at 4:02 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply

Don't ask, don't tell, don't CARE.

December 19 2010 at 3:35 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

sexual orientation discrimination is pretty much the same as race discrimination. no one should have to hide who they are to serve for this country. people seem to think that now that this ban will be lifted, gay people will just start hitting on eveyone in the military. have some sense people! everyone deserves equal rights whether they are gay, straight, male, female, black, white, or heck, even orange! closed-minded peeople need to wake up a little.

December 19 2010 at 3:34 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Melissa's comment

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