The Senate voted today to proceed to debate on a bill ending the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which clears the way to repeal the law.
In his State of the Union address earlier this year, President Obama vowed to end the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military. Last week, Senate Republicans blocked the repeal while delaying a vote on the DREAM Act. Today the Senate blocked the DREAM Act, which carves out a path to legal status for foreign-born children brought to the United States illegally.
Some chaplains had voiced concerns over the repeal, saying that they could be accused of discrimination if they addressed homosexuality. Earlier this year, the Southern Baptist Convention said that a large percentage of currently serving military personnel said they would not reenlist or would end their careers early should the policy be repealed. The National Association of Evangelicals would not encourage chaplains to resign if the law was repealed.
The Washington Postprovides the breakdown of votes for DADT.
Senators voted 63 to 33 go proceed to debate on the bill. Fifty-seven members of the Senate Democratic caucus and six Republicans – Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and George Voinovich (Ohio) – voted yes. Four senators – Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.) – did not vote.
A final vote on the bill is expected Sunday; a simple majority is required for final passage.
The vote came amid an unusually busy Saturday for the Senate, with consideration of gays in the military, the U.S.-Russia nuclear treaty and a bill providing a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants.
The New York Times reports on how it came back to the Senate floor.
Only a week ago, the effort to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy seemed to be dead and in danger of fading for at least two years with Republicans about to take control of the House. The provision eliminating the ban was initially included in a broader Pentagon policy bill, and Republican backers of repeal had refused to join in cutting off a filibuster against the underlying bill because of objections over the ability to debate the measure.
In a last-ditch effort, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, encouraged Democratic Congressional leaders to instead pursue a vote on simply repealing the ban. The House passed the measure earlier in the week.
Politico has more details on its final passage.
The repeal, however, wouldn't take effect immediately. Obama, Gates Mullen would have to certify to Congress that they have reviewed the Pentagon report on the impacts of repeal, that the Defense Department is prepared to implement repeal and that doing so would not harm military readiness, troop morale, and recruiting and retention.
The policy would be repealed 60 days after the president submits the document.