Saturday, December 18, 2010

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

The Senate has passed repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy by a vote of 65 to 31.  The bill, which mimics that recently passed by the House, will now go to President Obama for his signature.

Eight Republicans - Brown, Burr (!!!), Collins, Ensign, Kirk, Murkowski, Snowe, and Voinovich - joined Democrats in passing the legislation.

The Senate had previously passed cloture earlier today, ending a filibuster led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), by a vote of 63 to 33.

Repeal had been introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) - sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and cosponsored by over 50 senators - last week after the Senate had failed to pass cloture on a repeal-inclusive National Defense Authorization Act.

Make no mistake: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is not gone yet.  Obama, Mullen, and Gates must sign off on it once they are confident that they have a good plan to implement repeal, and then this plan must be put into effect.  But the fact remains that we have taken a gigantic step forward in ending discrimination towards gay people.

Here are some statements from the debate that took place prior to the vote:

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.):
"This policy has failed in its intended goals. It’s done a tremendous disservice to the men and women who want nothing more than to serve their country.  There are so many reasosn to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and to do it now.  This policy destroys lives.  'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is depriving our armed services of talented men and women at a time when we need them the most.  We cannot afford to lose critical assets simply because they're gay.  We also know that repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' won't have an adverse impact on the military. Repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is the right thing to do, it is the right thing for our country, it is the right thing for our military.  This afternoon, with an historic vote, this country will move a step forward in being proud of every man and woman who serves this country."

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.):
"We made some history today.  We did break a filibuster, a Republican filibuster, on the issue of ending discrimination in the military against gays and lesbians.  We voted to end that filibuster and take up the issue, and I do believe in a few hours that policy will be gone.  There are moments in history that come to us, and for me to be here at this time to cast a vote for civil rights, to cast a vote for justice, to cast a vote for equality, to cast a vote against discrimination, is a high honor. 

There's more work we have to do on this.  There's a lot of unfairness in our laws still about partners not being able to have the same rights as married couples - and that's a whole issue we will work on.  But I am confident that as Americans we will move forward.  When we started out, only white men of property can vote.  And we have struggled - all of this is a struggle, it's not easy.  The struggle for freedom is not easy.  But this will be a day that will go down in American history as a day that we lifted a barrier, and America is stronger because of it."

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.):
"I am encouraged and I am hopeful.  There is sufficient bipartisan support to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'  It is well past time to put an end to this discriminatory and harmful policy.  For too long, we have said, let's vote 'maybe.'  Most Americans expect United States Senators to come here and vote 'yes' or 'no,' not 'maybe.'  A filibuster is voting 'maybe.'  It's time for every man and woman in this body to step forward and vote either 'yes' or 'no.' 

Gay and lesbian Americans already serve honorably in the US armed forces and they've always done so.  They display the same conduct and professionalism we expect from all our men and women in uniform.  Giving these troops the right to serve openly would not cause disciplined servicemembers to suddenly become distracted on the battlefield.  It is pandering to suggest they would be.  Gay soldiers and straight soldiers have fought and died for this country in Afghanistan.  Every member of our armed services should be judged solely on his or her contribution to the mission.  Repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' would ensure we stay true to the principles on which our great nation was founded."

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.):
"It's not often that the Senate gets this kind of an opportunity with a single vote to right a wrong.  but we have that opportunity here today.  This vote is an historic vote.  It is one for which the Senate will be remembered for a long time.  This is our opportunity to fix an outdated, discriminatory, and broken policy - and strengthen our security.  This discriminatory policy undermines our national security.  We need to most qualified servicememberswe can find, regardless of sexual orientation.  At a time when our military is stretched thin across the globe, we simply cannot afford to lose some of our finest soldiers. 

Not only is this policy costing us critical capabilities, it's also unnecessarily costing us a lot of money.  The military spends $43,000 to replace each individual discharged under the DADT policy.  It just doesn't make sense to spend tens of thousands of dollars to investigate, try, and replace American soldiers based only on their sexual orientation.

This is a civil rights issue, it's a moral issue, and it is a national security issue.  Today, the Senate as an historic opportunity to fix this broken and outdated policy."

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio):
"It's important.  It's important for our military.  It's important for our values.  It's important for our country.  The 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy is inconsistent with our American values.  Important battles remain in our fight for human rights and justice in our country.  But we know for sure that history is on our side.  Today's vote will confirm that repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' will make our military stronger.  Open service poses no threat to our military readiness or effectiveness.  The srength of our nation is measured not just by the size of our economy or the might of our military.  It's measured by acts consistent with our values.  The repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is a long overdue victory for our military, a victory for our American values, a victory for human rights, and most importantly a victory for the American people."

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.):
"How can a policy long endure, in this country, especially as it relates to this military, that asks people to lie? Every day they have to get up and prepare themselves for service, and every day this policy says to them that you have to lie about it, you have to keep it a secret, you can't let anyone know.  How can a policy endure in this country that's based upon lying?  The core of our republic is under-girded by basic integrity.  This is a basic question about integrity.  I don't think the American people support that."

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.):
"It's time to stop discrimination.  It's time to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'  This is a policy that should have been repealed long ago.  It should have been repealed for its discriminatory nature.  'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is a ridiculous notion, a bad policy, and a relic of a bygone era.  It's keeping brave, able, educated, skilled, trained soldiers from doing so.  We're preventing them from making our military even stronger, contributing to what we need in a modern military force.  A vote to repeal this antiquated policy is a smart vote, it is the right vote, it is the fair vote, it is a just vote, it is a vote tokeep our military strong.  We're talking about patriots, men and women who are serving, who want to serve, who yearn to put their lives on the line."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.):
"I've always believed that the commitment of our top military leaders is critical to successfully implementing repeal of this policy.  We have the support of the top brass of our military of the United States, something that was incredibly important to implementing this policy change.  We have the support of a majority of our soldiers on the battlefield.  And the last thing we have is this body, this chamber - and today is the day we check that box, today is the day we will vote for repeal."

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