Efforts to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy gained significant momentum Thursday night when both the U.S. House and the Senate Armed Services Committee passed amendments to repeal the ban.
U.S. House, Senate Armed Services Committee vote to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
Both efforts would add “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal to the massive Defense Department authorization bill.
The full U.S. House voted 234-194 late Thursday night in favor of the amendment, which 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. Georgia Reps. John Lewis, Hank Johnson and John Barrow voted for the amendment to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
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 the office of Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), who serves on the Armed Services Committee, to ask him to vote in favor of repeal.
The vote was closed to the public and immediate vote lists were not available. But only one Republican on the committee, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), voted in favor of the repeal amendment, according to the Washington Blade. Only one Democrat, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), voted against the amendment.
National LGBT groups heralded the Senate committee vote 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 stars are aligning to finally restore honor and integrity to those who serve our country so selflessly.”
Aubrey Sarvis serves as executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group that helps soldiers affected by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and lobbies for repeal of the ban. Sarvis praised today’s vote, but noted that it doesn’t remove the policy and those currently serving in the military must remain vigilant.
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, and 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 earlier this week. It would delay implementation of the repeal until the Pentagon study is complete, and until the president, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that repealing the policy will not negatively impact the military.
“Repeal is moving forward with the support of the President and the Pentagon, including JCS Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates,” SLDN’s Sarvis said in a press release this evening.
“The repeal amendment allows for legislative action that respects the ongoing work by the Pentagon on how to implement open service for lesbian and gay service members,” he said. “Nothing would happen until the Pentagon Working Group completes its report and the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the President certifies repeal.”
How Georgia’s U.S. House delegation voted on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal
YES on repeal
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Lithonia) 202-225-1605 http://hankjohnson.house.gov
Rep. John Lewis (D-Atlanta) 202-225-3801 http://johnlewis.house.gov
Rep. John Barrow (D-Savannah) 202-225-2823 http://barrow.house.gov
Rep. David Scott (D-Atlanta) 202-225-2939 http://davidscott.house.gov