|U.S. House, Senate committee vote to repeal DADT|
|Written by Laura Douglas-Brown|
|Friday, 11 June 2010 00:00|
Efforts to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy gained significant momentum May 27 when both the U.S. House and the Senate Armed Services Committee passed amendments to repeal the ban.
“Just like the military helped end segregation based on race, we should have put an end to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ long ago. It is an affront to human dignity and to the dignity and the worth of every man and woman serving in our military,” U.S. Rep. John Lewis said during debate on the House floor.
“We cannot wait. We cannot be patient,” Lewis said. “We must end discrimination in the military, and we must end it now. Discrimination is wrong, and we must end it now.”
Both the House and Senate efforts would add “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal to the massive Defense Department authorization bill. The Defense bill still has to pass the full Senate, where debate could begin as early as June 18, and some Republicans, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), have threatened filibuster.
After the Senate, the bill would then go through a conference committee to resolve any differences between the House and Senate versions, and then the House and Senate would have to vote to approve conference report, according to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, before it would go to President Obama for signing.
The full U.S. House voted 234-194 May 27 in favor of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal amendment, which was sponsored by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) and needed 217 votes to pass. Only five Republicans voted in favor of repeal, while 26 Democrats voted against it.
All of the Republicans in Georgia’s delegation voted against repeal. Two Democrats from Georgia, Reps. Sanford Bishop and Jim Marshall, were among the 26 Democrats who crossed party lines to oppose repeal.
Kingston said he opposes repealing “ Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” because it would somehow lead to recognizing gay marriage.
“With homosexuals serving openly in the military … there would be no option but to recognize a man’s husband or a woman’s wife and to provide spousal benefits thus contradicting the federal law,” he said in a press release.
Kingston also suggested chucking DADT would “lead to further acts of censorship and a clamp down against religious freedom.”
“What happens when clerics are told they can no longer preach against a practice their faith tells them is wrong,” Kingston asked.
Bishop issued a statement explaining that he voted against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” through the Defense bill, even though he supports repeal, because he wanted Congress to wait until a Pentagon study is complete.
“I agree with the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the time has come to repeal the current ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, which dishonors men and women who are willing to give their lives in service to our country and also prevents capable men and women with vital skills from serving in the armed forces. However, I believe a vote today is premature,” Bishop said.
In addition to Lewis, Democratic Georgia Reps. Hank Johnson and John Barrow voted for the amendment.
The House vote came just hours after the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 16-12 in favor of a similar amendment.
The Human Rights Campaign had called on Georgians to call Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who serves on the Armed Services Committee, to ask him to vote in favor of repeal.
But only one Republican on the committee, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), voted in favor of the repeal amendment. Only one Democrat, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), voted against it.
National LGBT groups heralded the votes as a significant step towards ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“The importance of this vote cannot be overstated — this is the beginning of the end of a shameful ban on open service by lesbian and gay troops that has weakened our national security,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese in a press release.
The current amendments are a compromise plan that attempts to reconcile the desire of LGBT rights advocates and congressional supporters to repeal the ban now, before the end of this Congress when vote counts could be impacted by the November elections, with Pentagon leaders who want repeal to wait until after the military completes a study on removing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The study is not expected to be finished until December.
The White House announced support of the compromise early in the week before the vote. It would delay implementation of the repeal until the Pentagon study is complete; the president, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that repealing the policy will not negatively impact the military; and then after a 60-day waiting period.
Top photo: During debate on the House floor, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) called the ban on openly gay people serving in the military ‘an affront to human dignity.’ (Courtesy photo)
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