After a 17-year struggle, the Senate on Saturday cleared the way for repealing the Pentagon’s ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military.
By a bipartisan vote of 63 to 33, the Senate acted to cut off debate on a measure that would allow President Obama to declare an end to the Clinton-era policy, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which allows gay members of the armed forces to serve only if they keep their sexual orientation a secret.
The vote was a historic moment that some equated with the decision to end racial segregation in the military. It followed a review by the Pentagon that found little concern in the military about ending the ban and was backed by Pentagon officials as a better alternative to a court-ordered end.
Backers of the repeal said that it was long past time to end what they saw as a discriminatory practice that cost the military valuable personnel and forced American troops to lie in order to serve their country.
“I don’t care who you love,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said as debate opened. “If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.”
And by the way, Senator Wyden postponed his own surgery to take care of his prostate cancer. He did that so he could vote today. Now that is determination!
And so is this.
Today’s historic vote means that thanks to the leadership of Nevada’s Senator Harry Reid, the discriminatory policy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is going to be repealed once and for all. Though the opponents of equality did everything possible to keep delaying this vote through cynical political maneuvers, Senator Reid’s extraordinary leadership ensured that they did not succeed.
The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is not only the right thing to do, it is critical for our nation’s national security. It will end the discriminatory policy of forcing gay service members out of the military even though they are willing to serve and die for their country. In fact, the Pentagon released an in-depth study at the end of November finding that repealing the ban would not harm long-term effectiveness. The vast majority of the country also supports the repeal of DADT with poll after poll showing a huge pro-repeal sentiment. Last week, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that almost 8 in 10 Americans favor repealing DADT.
We are proud to have worked hard on Senator Reid’s reelection efforts because we have always trusted that when it comes to doing what’s right for America, the “Man from Searchlight” will lead the battle and today he did.
And so am I. Thank you again, Senator Reid. And thanks to the other 62 Senators who voted to do the right thing today.