Senate Committee and House Pass DADT Repeal Amendments

The Senate Armed Services Committee and the full House have passed amendments to a defense authorization bill that may eventually lead to the end of the military’s policy of discharging gay and lesbian servicemembers under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee passed the amendment on Thursday, May 27, by a 16-12 vote and the House passed a similar amendment (234-194) just hours later. The amendment’s language calls for a delay in DADT repeal pending the result of the Pentagon's Comprehensive Review Working Group study.

Repeal would be contingent on certification by President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen based on the study’s findings. In the meantime, LGB servicemembers would remain subject to the policy’s statutes.

"It (the House vote) doesn’t repeal ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’" said Speaker Pelosi during a press conference Thursday, May 27, 2010. "It defers to when that [DOD] report comes forth and then repeals ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’"

Both chambers will have to vote again after a conference committee works out the differences between the two versions of the defense-funding bill, and two Republican Senators have said they would support a filibuster of the underlying defense authorization bill in order to stop the repeal.

The full Senate is expected to take up the issue after the Memorial Day recess.

"The road to military equality has been long and we still have a ways to go," said Sacramento Valley Veterans President Tyson Redhouse, "the provisions of the amendment still do not provide protection to LGBT servicemembers. Additionally, the proposed delay following the study’s completion leaves a window of time for our leaders to change their views for repeal. True, this is a step in a forward direction, but it is the first of many and we need to keep our heads clear for what will come next. We must proceed with cautious optimism."

The "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy was implemented during the Clinton Administration in 1993. It stated that LGBT men and women could serve so long as they did not make statements or engage in acts of homosexuality. Since its implementation, the policy has discharged thousands of men and women for being gay.

"The votes in the Senate Committee and on the House floor to repeal ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ constitute one of the most important advances in our fight against prejudice based on sexual orientation," said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a key Democratic leader involved in that fight. Frank had earlier in the day said that if he had introduced an amendment to exempt gays from a military draft, opponents of the DADT repeal would be criticizing him for seeking "special rights" for gays.

Opponents of the repeal said that Democrats were ignoring the views of servicemembers and reneging on an agreement to let the Pentagon study how best to implement repeal.

President Obama released a statement shortly after the votes, saying that "I have long advocated that we repeal ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ … This legislation will help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity."

For background information on the policy, visit the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) web site at www.sldn.org or SacLGBTVeterans.org.

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