Wednesday, 15 December 2010

House Votes to Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

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soldiersThe House of Representatives voted 250 to 175 today to repeal the 17-year-old military policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). The legislation once again moves back to the Senate, where a vote is expected to take place sometime next week, at the very earliest if at all, report Senate aides.

Language repealing DADT originally appeared in the military authorization defense bill. It was among a variety of other controversial items added to the bill that ultimately resulted in its failure in the Senate. Today it appeared as a stand-alone bill cosponsored by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Representative Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania.

The vote follows a variety of judicial decisions regarding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” On September 9, a federal Judge ruled the policy to be unconstitutional. The same judge, Judge Phillips, then issued an injunction for an immediate suspension of the policy on October 13, and on October 19, rejected the federal government’s stay request that would have halted the enforcement of her decision.

In response to the Judge’s decisions, John Eidsmoe, author of Gays and Guns: The Case Against Homosexuals in the Military, told The New American, “Her decision is harmful to the discipline and health of military personnel. Likewise, it will have a serious negative effect on combat bonding.”

On November 1, however, a federal appeals court ruled that the military should maintain the DADT policy while the federal government appeals Judge Phillips ruling in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States. The decision came from a three-judge panel on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Adding to the debate, the Pentagon completed its year-long study of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on November 30, ultimately declaring that a repeal of the policy would pose minimal risks, though the results of the study conflicted in a number of areas. The survey seemed to indicate that some military groups remained opposed to repealing the policy, including combat troops and Marines.

Following the report, General James Amos, a new commandant of the U.S. Marines Corps., urged Congress to reconsider overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” contending that now was the wrong time to do so as American troops are still at war in Afghanistan.

Of today’s vote, the Washington Post reports, “Most House Republicans opposed Wednesday’s vote. In a conversation with reporters before the vote, Representative Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), who is slated to chair the House Armed Services Committee in the next Congress, said Democrats ‘were more concerned about ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ I believe, than about the military and about carrying out our responsibilities for those who are laying their lives on the line every day to protect us. That’s a bad system.’”

The repeal legislation moves for a vote to the Senate, where 47 senators have cosponsored the bill. Thus far, three Republicans have indicated their support to end the ban: Scott Brown (Mass.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Olympia Snowe (Maine).

In the meantime, the military authorization defense bill, which is expected to come up for a vote in the House next week, has been updated so that a provision for repealing “DADT” has been removed.

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