Wednesday, December 15, 2010

House Passes "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal

By a vote of 250 to 175, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a stand-alone bill repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the discriminatory policy that bars gay people from serving openly in the military.

Fifteen Republicans joined Democrats in passing the legislation, with 15 Democrats defecting.
The House had already passed repeal as part of the National Defense Authorization Act back in May, but the Senate failed to pass cloture last week on NDAA: this stand-alone bill was introduced by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) to mimic the one introduced in the Senate by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

Before the vote, one hour of debate was allowed, as had been agreed upon by the preceding rules vote, which had passed 232 to 180.   Here are some statements from the debate:

Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.):
"Conditions for repeal have been met.  Due diligence has been done, and the time to act is here.  Regardless of what cirtics say, the issue before us has been debated in Congress and reviewed by the Department of Defense.  Members of the House have debated repeal for some time.  The current policy does not work for our armed forces and is incosistent with American values. 

The DoD completed its study on implementing repeal, confirming our troops are ready for repeal.  In short, servicemembers and their spouses have essentially the same view as the American public: men and women in uniform who are gay should be allowed to serve openly.  Our top civilian and military officials agree with the American people.  With careful preparation, repeal poses low risk to the readiness and effectiveness of our forces.  I have great confidence in the leaders who are serving in our military and their professionalism.  After all, we trust them with decisions about our nation's safety.  We can trust them to put this transition into practice in a way that addresses the needs of our force. 

Change is never easy, but it is rarely as necessary as it is today.  Gay and lesbian personnel have the same values toward their service as servicemembers at large.  It's love of their country.  It's honor, it's respect, it's integrity, and service over self.  If we miss this opportunity to repeal this law, history will judge us poorly.  I urge members of this House to be on the right side of history and help end 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
"It's been a long time coming, but now is the time for us to act.  Today we have an opportunity to vote once again to close the door on a fundamental unfairness in our nation.  Seventeen years ago, many of us were on the floor of the House; I had the privilege of speaking, calling on the president definitively to lift the ban.  Instead, we enacted the unfortunate 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy that has resulted in more than 13,000 men and women in uniform being idscharged from the military.  Thousands of more have decided not to reenlist.  'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' doesn't contribute to our national security, and it controvenes our American values, and that's why the support for its repeal has come from every corner of our country. 

Repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' makes for good public policy and a stronger America.  It is my hope that we will encourage the Senate to take long-overdue action.  America has always been the land of the free and the home of the brave.  We are so because our brave men and women in uniform protect us.  Let us honor their service, their patriotism, by recommitting to the values they fight for on the battlefield."

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.):
"This process was implemented 17 years ago.  We have studied it and argued about it ever since.  To argue we are rushing this completely misses the point.  Argue against the bill if you want, but don't hide behind process. 

Gays and lesbians serve in the military right now, and yet somehow they have functioned quite well.  This is not introducing a brand new concept. 

How does it make us safer to drive out of the military thousands of people who are serving our country well?  It doesn't; it takes away experience, expertise, and talent at a time when we desparately need that.  It is way past time to repeal this law, strengthen our military, and allow gays and lesbians to serve our country with the bravery they have shown."

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.):
"I have just two words for you, my colleagues: vote yes.  Vote yes to end 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' Vote yes for equality.  Vote yes because discrimination is wrong.  Vote yes because every American deserves the right to serve their country.  Vote yes because the survey results said that troops are read.  Vote yes because on the battlefield, it doesn't matter who you love, only the flag that you serve.  Whatever your reason, I urge you, each of you, to vote yes today.  Vote yes because it is the right thing to do."

Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.):
"At no time should we be disqualifying dedicated servicemembers who are willing to serve and sacrifice for this nation.  The 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy is ineffective and unnecessary, and its repeal clearly takes a major step towards ending discrimination.  At a time when our nation's military needs dedicated Americans to serve, clearly this is a time when we should repeal this policy.  Support our national security by repealing this outdated policy."

Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.):
"Today we have a chance to do what is right not just for gay and lesbian troops serving in our military, but what is right for our national security.  Already, dozens of other nations allow their troops to serve openly, including our greatest military allies, with no detrimental impact on their units' cohesion.  It's an insult to the troops I served with to say that they are somehow less professional or mission-capable than a member of these foreign militaries.  We have heard every excuse under the sun.  Repeal will not harm our military's operation.  Enough of the games, enough of the politics.  Our troops are the best of the best, and they deserve a Congress that puts their safety and our collective national security over a close-minded ideology. This vote is about whether we will continue to tell people willing to die for our freedoms that they must lie to do so.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.):
"It is never too late to do the right thing.  That's the proposition that is before this House.  This May, we passed a defense bill that's still in the Senate because the minority party has not allowed it to move.  We voted to end the outdated policy that endangers our national security.  Our troops stand with our military leaders and a vast majority of Americans in calling for repeal.  A majority of them would be baffled by the fear with which some of my colleagues have opposed repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'  You are serving with gays in this chamber.  You are interfacing with gays every day in the staffs.  Do not pretend that it bothers you, because it does not.  They serve here with distinction, with dedication, and at no risk to any one of us or their colleagues.  It's time to end a policy of discrimination.  Now is the time to act for our country, for our principles, and for our men and women who serve us."

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), who served in Vietnam:
"Gays served proudly in Vietnam with us, just as gays serve in today's military.  What we're arguing about here is the inconsistency of forcing people to lie about who they are.  Lifting the ban to allow our troops to serve openly is constitent with the American values which are servicemembers risk their lives to defend.  This is an idea whose time has expired."

Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), the highest-ranking military official serving in the House:
"The greatest privilege I've had in my life is serving this country for 24 years.  I had the honor of training soldiers from all walks of life.  I know how important it is to fill our military with qualified volunteers.  I have no doubt in my mind that our military can repeal this discriminatory policy. I'm offended by the notion that they are not able to handle changing policy.  This discriminatory policy is hurting our nation.  Serving in the military, we believe in duty, honor, and country."

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.):
"I do not believe that our servicemen and women are so fragile that having a gay person serve next to them will kill them.  The mission of our armed forces is to deter war and to protect the security of our country.  If a soldier is capable and willing to sacrifice his or her life, that soldier is truly defending his country.  If a gay soldier is capable and willing to sacrifice his or her life, that soldier too is willing to defend this country.  It is not the gay soldier that puts our security at risk, but this government."

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.):
"I was a military spouse.  I can't ever remember anybody getting upset about whether they were gay or straight.  When we see men and women who are behaving and serving their country, it is absolutely disgraceful to throw them out."

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), who is openly gay:
"We know that this policy is unjust, discriminatory, and unAmerican.  Our military personnel are ready to serve along American soldiers who are openly gay and lesbian.  The time has come to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and move further down the path to LGBT equality for all Americans.  In this land of the free and home of the brave it is long past time for Congress to end this policy."

Rep. Al Green (D-Texas):
"When you've had to stand at the back of the bus, sit at the balcony of the movie theatre, and wait in a line for Colored Only, then you are ready for this vote.  I will not ask people who are willing to die for my country to live a lie for my country."

All of these congressmen and women spoke eloquently and powerfully in favor of repealing the discriminatory and dangerous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.  (Several others, including Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, spoke as well, but I was unable to capture everything everyone said.)  They should all be commended for their strong and steadfast support for gay rights.

But make no mistake: this isn't over.  The Senate will soon vote to invoke cloture on the DADT repeal bill, and we need to make sure we have 60 votes to proceed with debate.  Please call these senators and make sure they support repeal.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.): 202-224-3954
Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.): 202-224-4543
Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.): 202-224-6244
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.): 202-224-4814
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): 202-224-6665
Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio): 202-224-3353

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