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|Senate vote expected on repeal of military gay ban|
|by Laura Douglas-Brown|
|September 17, 2010 00:00|
Barely two weeks after a federal judge ruled the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy unconstitutional, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on repealing the ban on openly gay service members.
At press time, the Senate was expected to vote during the week of Sept. 20 on the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes an amendment repealing DADT.
The U.S. House approved in May a defense authorization bill that includes an amendment on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” although it delays repeal until after a Pentagon study on gays in the military is completed and military leaders determine repeal will not hurt troop readiness.
Advocates for openly gay service members fear the repeal will not pass for “several more years” if it is not voted on in September, especially if Republicans make gains in the November elections, according to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
“Repeal proponents may well need 60 votes in the Senate to get to this important debate in September,” said SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran.
“We are now in the final stretch and we must prevail. Repeal supporters should not stop calling their senators.”
Georgia’s two U.S. senators, Republicans Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, have opposed repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The Senate action follows on the heels of a Sept. 9 ruling by United States District Judge Virginia Phillips that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” violates the Constitution’s guarantees of freedom of speech and due process.
The Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP group, sued the federal government in the United States District Court, Central District of California, on behalf of several of its members who had been discharged under the policy, which prohibits service members from acknowledging their sexual orientation.
“The net effect of these discharges, as revealed not only in the testimony of the lay witnesses but also of the experts who testified and defendants’ own admissions regarding the numbers of servicemembers discharged and the costs of recruiting and maintaining an all-volunteer military force, compel the conclusion that the Act restricts speech more than reasonably necessary to protect the Government’s interests,” Phillips ruled.
Phillips said she will issue a permanent injunction barring enforcement of the policy. Log Cabin was instructed to submit a proposed judgment and injunction by Sept. 16; the federal government will have seven days to respond.
Jamie Ensley, an Atlanta resident who serves on the national board of directors for Log Cabin Republicans, said he was “humbled and honored” to testify during the trial to provide evidence of the discharged service members’ membership in Log Cabin — and thus, why the gay group had standing to sue the government.
State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta), the most gay-friendly Republican in the Georgia General Assembly, praised the ruling.
“I applaud the recent U.S. District Court decision striking down the federal government’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. This is another step toward giving true meaning to the freedoms embodied in the Bill of Rights and making the government treat LGBT citizens with equality and dignity,”said Jacobs, who faces Democrat Sandy Murray on the November ballot.
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