Senate fails to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

WASHINGTON, D.C. — "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the military policy banning gays in the military, has survived an attempt by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to attach an amendment that would have overturned bans on open homosexuals serving in the armed forces and abortions in military facilities.

The senate leader failed in his Sept. 21 effort to repeal the measure after getting just 56 votes to end debate and move to a vote, falling four short to get the required 60 votes. Despite the immediate victory for members of the military who oppose changing the policy, Reid used a tactical measure that would allow him to bring the measure back for a vote if he managed to get the necessary 60 votes.

Even so, the vote was widely seen as the last probable attempt to repeal the bill in advance of the November mid-term elections.

"Today's ruling is not just a victory for the LGBT community, but for our military, our security, and for U.S. taxpayers," Rick Jacobs, chairman and founder of Courage Campaign said in a statement. "Asking soldiers to lie about who they are destroys the trust on which an effective fighting force is reliant, and discrimination of any kind undermines the values that generations of Americans—including LGBT Americans—have fought and died to defend.

Pro-family groups, however, disagreed, saying the issue is military safety.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a written statement, "This is a victory for the men and women who serve our nation in uniform. At least for now they will not be used to advance a radical social agenda."

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" — which was enacted in 1993 — prevents homosexuals from serving openly but also prohibits military commanders from asking service members if they are homosexual or about their "sexual orientation."

The other controversial amendment added to the Defense authorization bill in committee would eliminate a restriction on elective, privately funded abortions in military health-care facilities that has been in place for the last 14 years. The proposal would not affect the ban that exists on publicly funded abortions at armed services hospitals.

Military chaplains have continued expressing concern over religious liberities regarding the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell." On Sept. 17 an additional 25 military chaplains signed onto a letter to President Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, first sent in April. It now has 66 signers. The signers are from all four military branches and have nearly 1,700 years of combined service.

Gates implemented a comprehensive review of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in March. As part of the study, the Pentagon elicited feedback from military personnel and their families. Gates said in April he believes "in the strongest possible terms" that the review should be complete prior to any legislative action. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen and the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines also said Congress should not act until the review of the current policy has been completed.

The House of Representatives and Senate began acting in May, however, only three days after the White House and congressional leaders reached an agreement on a way to enact repeal of the ban. Under the agreement and subsequent legislation, repeal would not go into effect until the Pentagon has finished a study of the issue Dec. 1. The agreement requires that Obama, Gates and Mullen sign off on repeal of the policy. All three are on record in support of repeal.

Obama promised during the 2008 election campaign to overturn the ban. During his State of the Union speech in January, the president said he would work for repeal this year.

Gen. James Amos, Obama's nominee as the next commandant of the Marine Corps told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee he does not support repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," it was reported by the Christian Science Monitor Tuesday. Amos would be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Senate Armed Services Committee forwarded the measure providing for repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to the full Senate in a 16-12 vote in May.

The House approved a similar provision on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" the same day in a 234-194 vote. Members later passed the overall Defense authorization legislation in a 229-186 roll call.

The Senate Armed Services Committee passed the amendment repealing the abortion ban in a 15-12 vote. The House version of the Defense authorization bill does not contain the abortion language. If the Senate eventually passes an overall bill that includes the abortion provision, its fate in the final version would be negotiated in a conference committee of members of both houses.

BP news was used in this report


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