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Senate Votes, 65 to 31, to Repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
photo by Bruce-Michael Gelbert
Lt. Dan Choi, fired under DADT, at a recent anti-violence rally in the Village

On December 18, the United States Senate voted, by a vote of 65 to 31, in favor of legislation, co-sponsored by Senators Joseph Lieberman (Independent, Connecticut) and Susan Collins (Republican, Maine), that will permit repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), the 17-year-old law which has prevented LGBT service people, who are honest and open about their sexual orientation, from serving in the military. The House of Representatives passed similar legislation, by a vote of 250 to 175, on December 15. The legislation must go next to the President and the Pentagon for completion of the repeal process.

Legislators and organizations alike hailed the Senate’s historic action. Senator Lieberman said, “This ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010’ removes a law that discriminates against military service members based solely on their sexual orientation and also harms our national security. This historic day has been seventeen years in the making.” Senator Collins declared, “This is an historic moment. Like our closest allies, the United States’ Armed Forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable of serving our country.”

In an email headed, simply, “We won,” Rick Jacobs, Chair, of the California-based Courage Campaign wrote, “With 63 votes today in the Senate, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is on the way to the dustbin of history. I’m elated and I’m somber: it’s a huge victory … But we ain’t done yet. Courage Campaign is going to mount an effort to pressure the Obama Administration to quickly certify repeal.” Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Joe Solomonese said, “Today, America lived up to its highest ideals of freedom and equality. Congress recognized that all men and women have the right to openly serve their country. Plenty of people had already planned the funeral for this legislation. Today, we pulled out a victory from what was almost certain defeat just a few days ago. We are grateful to President [Barack] Obama, Majority Leader [Harry] Reid, and Senators Lieberman, Collins and countless others for their dogged determination to repeal DADT.” Chuck Wolfe, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund said, “Today’s victory is proof that together we can and will continue the fight to expand freedom for LGBT Americans—in Washington, in state capitals and on city councils and school boards across the country.”

HRC detailed the process that must occur before repeal of DADT becomes law: “First, the President must sign the legislation passed by Congress. Second, according to the legislation, the President must transmit a written certification to the House and Senate Armed Services Committee signed by the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certifying that: (1) all signatories have considered the recommendations contained in the Pentagon Working Group report; (2) the Department of Defense has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to implement repeal; and (3) the policies and regulations implementing repeal are consistent with military standards for readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention. Third, 60 days must elapse after the President delivers the written certification before DADT is repealed once and for all.” HRC also issued “this critical warning to service members: Repeal of DADT is not effective immediately and service members are still at risk of being discharged on the basis of their sexual orientation until certification occurs and 60 days have passed.”

In his first State of the Union address, on January 27, President Obama affirmed that, “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.” Organizations like Campaign Courage have declared their determination that the President will make good this promise. Courage Campaign Chair Jacobs added, concerning the Senate’s action on December 18, “[T]ogether, we’ll move from this victory to full equality in the months and days ahead.”

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