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Dec 18th, 2010

Senate Votes to End Military Ban on Gays

Obama expected to sign bill next week, although change wouldn’t take immediate effect


Landmark vote overturns “don’t ask, don’t tell” (NBC Nightly News, Dec. 18, 2010) — The Senate’s action sends the bill to the desk of President Barack Obama, who on Saturday expressed eagerness to fulfill a campaign pledge to overturn the ban on gays in the military. NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports. (03:12)

December 18, 2010

WASHINGTON — In a landmark for gay rights, the Senate on Saturday voted to let gays serve openly in the military, giving President Barack Obama the chance to fulfill a campaign promise and repeal the 17-year policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Obama was expected to sign it next week, although the change wouldn’t take immediate effect. The legislation says the president and his top military advisers must certify that lifting the ban won’t hurt troops’ fighting ability. After that, there’s a 60-day waiting period for the military.

“It is time to close this chapter in our history,” Obama said in a statement after a test vote cleared the way for final action. “It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed.”

The Senate vote was 65-31. The House had passed an identical version of the bill, 250-175, on Wednesday.

Repeal would mean that, for the first time in American history, gays would be openly accepted by the military and could acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being kicked out.

More than 13,500 service members have been dismissed under the 1993 law.

Rounding up a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate was a historic victory for Obama, who made repeal a campaign promise in 2008. It also was a political triumph for congressional Democrats who struggled in the final hours of the postelection session to overcome GOP objections on several legislative priorities before Republicans regain control of the House in January.

“As Barry Goldwater said, ‘You don’t have to be straight to shoot straight,”‘ said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., referring to the late GOP senator from Arizona.

Sen. John McCain, Obama’s GOP rival in 2008, led the opposition. The Arizona Republican acknowledged he didn’t have the votes to stop the bill and he blamed elite liberals with no military experience for pushing their social agenda on troops during wartime. …

Adm. Mike Mullen and Marine Gen. James Cartwright, the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, respectively, have said the fear of disruption is overblown. They note the Pentagon’s finding that 92 percent of troops who believe they have served with a gay person saw no effect on their units’ morale or effectiveness. Among Marines in combat roles who said they have served alongside a gay person, 84 percent said there was no impact.


Related report on this site

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Report (Nov. 30, 2010)

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conduct a press briefing at the Pentagon discussing the public release of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Comprehensive Working Group report on Nov. 30, 2010. (DOD photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

Statement by Secretary Robert Gates on Senate Vote to Repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Statement by Adm. Mike Mullen on Senate Vote to Repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — December 18, 2009

Iranian Troops Cross into Iraq

Image: Al-Fakkah oil field
Gas is vented from the al-Fakkah oil field near Amara, Iraq, Dec. 8, 2009. Iraq said Iran had seized one oil well in the field. (Photo credit: Atef Hassan / Reuters)

One year ago today, I reported that Iranian troops crossed into Iraq and seized an oil well in a disputed area along the two countries’ southern border. Iraqi security forces were in the area, but there were no reports of any fighting or shots fired and Iranian forces later withdrew from the disputed site.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — December 18, 2008

An Iraqi man was treated at a hospital on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008 after a bomb attack in Baghdad. (Photo credit: Johan Spanner / The New York Times)

Iraq Coup d’État Foiled?

Two years ago today, on Dec. 18, 2008 I reported that at least 25 Iraqi interior ministry officials had been arrested, including several accused of planning a coup; that the Iraqi government accused U.S. forces of killing at least three Trade Ministry employees in a pre-dawn raid on ministry property in Baghdad; and that attackers shot and beheaded Nahla Hussein al-Shaly, 37, leader of the women’s league of the Kurdish Communist Party, reportedly because she promoted women’s rights in Iraq.

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