Saturday, December 18, 2010

Senate Passes Cloture on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal

Third time’s the charm as the Senate passes cloture on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal 63 to 33 on Saturday morning.  The Senate will now debate the bill, followed by an up or down vote.

Republican Senators Brown, Collins, Kirk, Murkowksi, Snowe and Voinovich joined Democrats in passing cloture, while Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) voted against cloture with most of the Republicans.

Repeal had been introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) – with Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) as a sponsor and 50 senators as co-sponsors – as a stand-alone bill after the Senate failed to pass cloture on the full National Defense Authorization Act by two votes last week.

The House has already passed an identical bill, introduced by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), meaning that if the Senate does pass repeal - which is now extremely likely - the bill will go directly to President Obama for his signature.

Before the cloture vote, several senators made powerful floor speeches in support of repeal.  Here are some statements from those speeches:

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.):
"We should end this policy because it is the right thing to do. This change is supported by the overwhelming majority of the American people. I’m not here for partisan reasons; I’m here because men and women wearing the uniform of the United States who are gay and lesbian have died in this country, because they have their lives on the line right now for this country. The first casualty in the war in Iraq was gay. We cannot let these patriots down; their suffering should end, it will end, with the passage of this bill. I urge its passage today: it’s the right thing to do."

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.):
"Repealing this law is not about scoring political points or catering to a specific interest group – it’s about doing the right thing for our national security, especially during a time of two wars. We need every able-bodied man or woman who is willing to fight for his country. Our national security will be enhanced by this repeal. Our servicemembers are complete professionals: they will comply with repeal, and they will not allow open service to negatively affect the job that they do."

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.):
"We need to make adjustments to this policy: I say that after many years of thought and analysis.  We need to understand what this is and what it is not.  The question is not whether there should be gays and lesbians in the military: they're already there.   The question is whether this policy works today in a way that can protect small unit cohesion and allow people to live honest lives.  I have spent my entire life in and around the military.  With the notion that we need to be putting a policy into place that allows an open living with people of different points of view, I support this repeal."

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.):
"We have an opportunity not just to right a wrong, not just to honor the service of a group of American patriots who happen to be gay or lesbian, not just to make our military more effective, but to advance the values that the founders of our country articulated in our original American documents.  If you play by the rules and work hard, you should be able to go as far as your talents take you, not based on any particular characteristic that is assigned to you. 

The existing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy is inconsistent with American values.  It is particularly bad for the military because in our society, the American military is the one institution that still commands the respect and trust of the American people because it lives by American values, it fights for American values, it is committed to a larger cause and not divided by any division.  To force this policy on our mlitary is to force them to be less than they want to be and less than they can be. 

Under the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, more than 14,000 members of our military have been discharged not because they performed their responsiblities inadequately, but simply because of their sexual orientation.  We spent more than half a billion dollars training those 14,000 - what a waste.  These people simply want to serve their country.  They want to go back and serve their country; does it make any sense to say no to them?

The fact is that removing the form of legalized discrimination from our books, allowing people to serve our military regardless of sexual orientation, is not a liberal or conservative idea, it is an American idea consistent with American values. Neither race or religion, ethnicity or gender, or sexual orientation should deprive Americans of serving our country as the patriots they are. It's time to right a wrong and put the military in line with the best of American values."

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.):
"The policy is unconstitutional, it does more harm than good.  The criteria for serving in the armed forces should be courage, confidence, and a willingness to serve.  No one should be turned away for who they are.  Since 1993, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' has required gay and lesbian Americans to make a choice: you can serve the country you love, but only if you lie about who you are.  this has forced honorable American soldiers to conceal their true selves from their family, their friends, their fellow servicemembers, and their military superiors."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.):
"I cannot think of a policy that greater undermines the integrity of our entire armed services and who we are as a nation.  This policy is corrosive.  I can't think of something more egregious, more undermining of our command structure and our goodwill, and the entire fabric of our armed services.  This is an urgent priority for national security.  If you care about national security, if you care about our military readiness, then you will repeal this corrosive policy."

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.):
"One of the great things about our military is that it has always been an integrating, positive force in America.  Any policy that says you can't serve is wrong, bad for our military service, and bad for our country.  The drive for equality is a great american driv,e is part of the American dream, and we will prevail."

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.):
"You won't get many chances in the United States Senate to face clear votes on the issue of justice.  This morning, you will have two.  The question is whether the United States Senate will go on record as a nation prepared to stop discrimination based on sexual orientation.  It is a monumental question and a question we should face squarely.  This is our moment in history to show our courage."

Sen. Harry Reid (D-N.V.):
"To hear [Sen. Mitch McConnell] argue about procedure brings a big yawn to the American people.  To suggest that there haven't been adequate hearings on this is just simply non-sensical.  There have been hearings held, reports done by the military, more than 70% of those who serve in the armed forces believe it doesn't matter at all.  As Barry Goldwater said, 'you don't have to be straight to shoot straight.'"

This isn't quite over yet.  Call these senators and make sure they support repeal when it comes up for a vote:

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 Olympia Snowe (R-Maine): 202-224-5344
Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio): 202-224-3353

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