By a vote of 63 to 33, the lame-duck Senate voted to end debate on a bill repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which bans gays from serving openly in the military. A final Senate vote came later today: Capping a seventeen-year political struggle, by a vote of 65 to 31, the Senate repealed the law. (The bill only needed 51 votes.) The bill now gets sent to President Obama, who will sign it into law and work out a final repeal timetable with Pentagon chiefs, putting an end to the discriminatory practice. The repeal will not take effect for at least 60 days while some other procedural steps are taken.
President Barack Obama thanked pro-repeal senators for their work, calling the move “historic.” His signature will end, as he put it: “A policy that denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay.” He added: “I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly. No longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.”
Many equated the passage with the decision to end racial segregation in the military, comparing it to the civil rights movement victories of the sixties. It followed a review by the Pentagon that found little concern in the military about ending the ban, and polls that showed the vast majority of American people supported the DADT repeal. Backers of the repeal said it was long past time to put an end to the practice. Democratic lawmakers like Kirsten Gillibrand and Harry Reid hugged and teared up on the floor, proudly celebrating a final victory for the Democratic caucus.
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden put it this way: “I don’t care who you love. If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.”