In a final push to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy barring gay men and women from serving openly in the military before the end of the lame duck legislative session in Washington, the House Wednesday passed a standalone version of the repeal by a vote of 250 to 175. The repeal legislation now goes to the Senate where a version tied to the larger Defense Authorization bill was scuttled last week.
Communications Director Tara Trujillo told the Colorado Independent that Senator Mark Udall, a dogged champion of repeal, is “fairly confident the Senate will take up DADT repeal and he is fighting to ensure that it is passed.”
In the wake of news that the Defense bill had fallen victim to Senate gridlock last week, Udall railed against his Republican colleagues for filibustering to prevent even debate over the bill, a version of which Congress passes annually to release funds to the military and which would pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It appeared that enough Republicans had joined with Democrats to back the repeal but negotiations bogged down over procedural stipulations. Udall reportedly immediately joined with Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins to work on introducing standalone repeal legislation.
If repeal now passes the Senate, it will rank as a significant chapter in U.S. civil rights legislative history.
Openly gay Colorado Congressman Jared Polis spoke at length on the bill in the House Wednesday.
Excerpts from Polis’s remarks:
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is the only law in the country that requires people to be dishonest or be fired if they choose to be honest. It’s a law that not only is hurtful to the men and women who put themselves at risk serving in our armed forces, but it’s a law that’s hurtful to our national security.
A recent study found that 8 out of 10 Americans support repealing the law. Regardless of their political party, people recognize that on the battlefield it doesn’t matter if a soldier is gay or straight. What matters is they get the job done to protect our country.
[T]he Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense have been very clear that they want to see this policy legislatively repealed. Why? Because repeal of this policy is inevitable. It’s a question of when not if. There are already several court orders in various stages of appeal and the military feels that the plan for it, with us, in this legislative process, is better for military readiness than running the greater risk of having an instant court order, an on or off again court order, which is also a possibility, which would prevent the regular military planning process from going forward.
The sooner we act the better. Despite our differences, it’s clear that leaving it up to the courts is the wrong way to go about it. In 1993 the passage of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a political process, not a military one. Today we can rectify that, remove the statutory requirement, and allow the military to do the right thing to improve military readiness and enhance the protection of our country.
Let us be on the right side of history and finally move forward with repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” today.