The United States Senate voted late Saturday afternoon to repeal the military’s controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gays in the military – sending the bill to President Barack Obama’s desk.
The U.S. military’s code of conduct had prohibited service by homosexuals until former President Bill Clinton negotiated the compromise, which allows gay men and women to serve as long as they did not disclose their sexual orientation. Clinton has since said that the policy should be changed.
The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to get rid of the policy and today’s 65 – 31 vote drew applause from New York officials.
“The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is wrong for our national security and wrong for the moral foundation upon which our country was founded,” proclaimed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D –New York), a lead sponsor of Senate legislation to abolish the policy. “For nearly two decades this corrosive policy has required service members to lie about who they are. We’ve lost more than 13,000 of our best and brightest to this unjust and discriminatory policy. By repealing this policy, we will increase America’s strength – both militarily and morally.”
Obama, who vowed to repeal the policy both in the campaign and in his first State of the Union address vowed to sign the legislation early next week. The repeal would not take effect for at least 60 days to allow certain procedural steps to be taken.
“It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed,” said Obama in a statement following the vote. “It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly.”
Locally, City Comptroller John C. Liu hailed the passage as a victory for equality.
“Finally after too many years of being forced to deny who they are, gay men and lesbians will be able to serve openly in the military,” said Liu. “Like so many who serve, gay men and lesbians have never hesitated to give everything they have to keep our country free, even if it meant sacrificing their lives. Now they will have the simple dignity that any other soldier has to talk about the one they love without fear of official retribution or dismissal.”
The repeal had the support not only of Obama, but that of top military brass, including Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
In a statement issued late this afternoon Gates said he will begin the process immediately but he added that certification won’t come until after “careful consultation” with the military service chiefs and combatant commanders.
Contact Michael A. Harris at [email protected]