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House and Senate Committee Vote to Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The House of Representatives voted 234 to 194 Thursday to add an amendment to a defense spending bill that would repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). According to CNN, the full defense spending bill should come up for a vote in the House sometime today. Also Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 16 to 12 in favor of repeal. Some Senate Republicans have already indicated that they will consider filibustering the entire defense authorization bill if it goes to the Senate floor with the amendment to repeal DADT, reported Newsweek. President Barack Obama responded to the votes in a statement, where he said, “I am pleased that both the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee took important bipartisan steps toward repeal tonight. Key to successful repeal will be the ongoing Defense Department review, and as such I am grateful that the amendments offered by Representative Patrick Murphy and Senators Joseph Lieberman and Carl Levin that passed today will ensure that the Department of Defense can complete that comprehensive review that will allow our military and their families the opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process…This legislation will help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity.” A deal between the sponsors of the amendment and the White House was reached earlier this week that alters the amendment to require completion of a military review of the policy before a repeal can be enacted. The compromise provision requires that repeal will not go into effect until after the Pentagon completes its review of the policy, which is due to congress by December 1 of this year. DADT was instituted by former President Bill Clinton in 1993 and prohibits the military from inquiring about a service member’s sexual orientation, but also calls for the discharge of anyone who acknowledges being lesbian or gay. Thus far, the policy has led to the expulsion of about 13,000 troops. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent a letter to Congress asking that they not move forward with a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) until the Pentagon completes a review of the policy earlier this month. At the time, the White House also released a statement supporting Secretary Gates’ Letter. In the letter, Gates said that a full Pentagon review is necessary prior to repeal of DADT because “our military must be afforded the opportunity to inform us of their concerns, insights, and suggestions if we are to carry out this change successfully.” Further, he wrote, “I strongly oppose any legislation that seeks to change this policy prior to the completion of this vital assessment process” and also asked Congress not to change the policy yet “as it would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns, and perspectives do not matter on an issue with such a direct impact and consequence for them and their families.” The Pentagon announced in March 2010 that it will relax enforcement of DADT until Congress acts to repeal the policy. The military no longer investigates service members’ sexual orientation based on anonymous tips, is reducing third party testimony, and now requires high-level review of all expulsions based on sexual orientation. President Obama announced a promise to repeal DADT during his State of the Union Address on January 27. He said, “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.” In February, top US military leaders also announced they would conduct a year-long review of DADT during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. In March, Joe Lieberman (I-CT) introduced the current bill, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, in the Senate to repeal the policy.

Sources:

CNN 5/28/10; Newsweek 5/27/10; White House Statement 5/27/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 5/3/10