“DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL” IS HISTORY!
December 18th, 2010
Today is a truly historic day in the history of the gay rights movement. In a 65-31 vote, the U.S. Senate approved H.R.2965, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010. The House had passed an identical version of the bill by a 250-175 vote earlier in the week. The bill will now go to the President’s desk, where he had pledged to sign it into law.
Since the DADT was enacted in 1993, more than 13,500 LGBT servicemembers have been dismissed from the military.
The actual repeal of the military’s ban on LGBT people serving openly will not take effect immediately following the President’s signature. That will happen only after certification by the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that policies have been written to implement repeal and compliance with these polices is consistent with military readiness. The Pentagon Working Group study outlined the steps that need to occur in order to implement the new policy. Those steps include enacting changes to the Uniform Code of Military Conduct, training for officers and servicemembers, and updates to various policies concerning proper conduct in the workplace. Those tasks may take from six months to a year to accomplish. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) warns that it is not yet safe for LGBT servicemembers to reveal themselves to their co-workers and officers.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) skipped the vote in favor of a Christmas party, calling it “a family obligation that he just could not break. . .However, he has been clear on where he stands on the issues.” Except, of course, he hasn’t been. When he voted against the Defense Authorization Bill last week, he specifically cited DADT repeal as his deciding factor, saying in his later “apology” that “I have not had the opportunity to visit and hear the full range of viewpoints from the citizens of West Virginia.”
Eight Republicans voted to repeal DADT. They were Sens. Scott Brown (MA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Susan Collins (ME), John Ensign (R-NV), Mark Kirk (IL), Lisa Murkowski, (R-AK), Olympia Snowe (ME), and George Voinovich (OH). Burr and Ensign switched their votes to “yes” after having voted against cloture earlier this morning. All fifty-five Democrats and both independents voted in favor of the bill. In addition to Manchin’s non-vote, Sens. Jim Bunning (R-KY), Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Orin Hatch (R-UT) also did not vote.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates reacts to the vote:
“I welcome today’s vote by the Senate clearing the way for a legislative repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ law.
“Once this legislation is signed into law by the President, the Department of Defense will immediately proceed with the planning necessary to carry out this change carefully and methodically, but purposefully. This effort will be led by Dr. Clifford Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and himself a retired Marine Corps major general and infantry officer.
“The legislation provides that repeal will take effect once the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that implementation of the new policies and regulations written by the Department is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces. As I have stated before, I will approach this process deliberately and will make such certification only after careful consultation with the military service chiefs and our combatant commanders and when I am satisfied that those conditions have been met for all the Services, commands and units.
“It is therefore important that our men and women in uniform understand that while today’s historic vote means that this policy will change, the implementation and certification process will take an additional period of time. In the meantime, the current law and policy will remain in effect.
“Successful implementation will depend upon strong leadership, a clear message and proactive education throughout the force. With a continued and sustained commitment to core values of leadership, professionalism and respect for all, I am convinced that the U.S. military can successfully accommodate and implement this change, as it has others in history.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen has also issued this statement:
“I am pleased to see the Congress vote to repeal the law governing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Handling this through legislation preserves the military’s prerogative to implement change in a responsible, deliberate manner.
“More critically, it is the right thing to do. No longer will able men and women who want to serve and sacrifice for their country have to sacrifice their integrity to do so. We will be a better military as a result.
“I look forward to working with Secretary Gates and the Service chiefs as we set about the task of preparing and certifying the joint force to implement the new law. And I am committed to making sure that process is well-led, maintains our combat readiness and upholds our high standards.”