Udall, Bennet, Colorado LGBT community laud Senate passage of DADT repeal

Colorado Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall today were joined by the state’s gay and lesbian activist groups in cheering the 65 to 31 Senate vote to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that bars gay men and women from serving openly in the military.

“It it past time to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and confer dignity and a basic civic right to Americans who have signed up to defend our country,” Bennet said in a release. “No longer will well-performing service members be discharged or denied the ability to serve in the military based on sexual orientation.

“It is not only wrong; it undermines our national security and flies in the face of our national values. We don’t tolerate this kind of discrimination in the private sector, and should not do so in our Armed Forces either. Our military leaders say we should move forward with repeal, and the American people agree.”

Eight Republicans crossed party lines to vote for the bill, co-sponsored by Udall, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The bill survived a filibuster attempt by Republicans earlier in the day, but now will be sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The bill compels the U.S. Department of Defense to implement the new policy in a way that protects national security. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen had recently urged the Senate to lift DADT.

“The U.S. Senate took a giant step forward today toward enhancing our national security by allowing all Americans to fight for their nation regardless of whether they are gay or straight,” Udall said in a release.

“Once the Department of Defense certifies that it is ready to allow fully open service, it will be a proud day for our nation. Never again will a soldier, a translator, a jet mechanic, or others in our Armed Services lose their job merely because of who they love. Instead, their love of country – and a willingness to sacrifice their lives – will be the paramount factor in their service.”

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Colorado (The Center) lauded the Senate vote after the bill passed out of the House last week. Center officials said “this vote means the military’s 17-year prohibition on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military is a step closer to ending.”

After the president, Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify the lifting of the ban, it’s expected to go into effect within 60 days.

“We are pleased that the Senate listened to the American people, who overwhelmingly approve of gays and lesbians being able to serve openly. Repealing it is the right thing to do,” said Center spokeswoman Heather Draper. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has long infringed on the fundamental rights of gay and lesbian military men and women, which has been painfully obvious since the policy was implemented in 1993.”

Organizing for America-Colorado (OFA-CO) State Director Jennifer Cheyne released this statement after today’s vote:

“OFA supporters in Colorado are celebrating the Senate vote to repeal the archaic ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. Repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is something OFA supporters care very deeply about and they have been working hard urging Senators to support ending this discriminatory policy.

“Thanks to the leadership of President Obama and members of Congress, brave men and women will soon be able to serve openly and proudly in our Armed Forces regardless of their sexual orientation. Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will strengthen our national security and is a major step towards equal rights in our country.”

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