WASHINGTON — The Senate today voted to end the military policy forcing gay and lesbian armed servicemembers to remain secretive about their sexual orientation or be booted out of the military.
The final vote was 65 to 31. Both Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken voted to repeal it.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the President plans to sign the repeal bill next week.
“Today a bipartisan group of Senators stood up with our military leaders to repeal the 1993 Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy,” Klobuchar said. “I’ve always believed the commitment of our top military leaders is critical to successfully implementing the repeal of this policy. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen, and other leaders in our Armed Services have testified in support of the repeal and today the Senate acted to make this happen.”
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a discriminatory policy that forces Minnesotans and other Americans to lie about who they are in order to serve their country,” Franken said. “The American people are ready to end this law, the military is ready to end it, and above all it’s just the right thing to do.”
The policy, known as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, has been in place since 1993, when President Clinton offered it as a compromise in rolling back an earlier policy that forbade non-heterosexuals from serving. A survey of military members showed around 70 percent said they saw no harm in repealing the policy, though numbers were far weaker among front-line troops, opponents noted.
“By ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay,” President Obama said in a statement ahead of the vote. “And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.”
“As Commander-in-Chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known. And I join the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the overwhelming majority of service members asked by the Pentagon, in knowing that we can responsibly transition to a new policy while ensuring our military strength and readiness.”
It’s important to note that the law as written doesn’t immediately end the policy, so when Obama inevitably signs this bill the policy won’t end. Obama and top Pentagon brass must also certify that the change will not adversely impact the military before Don’t Ask Don’t Tell ends.
No timetable has yet been given on that — the president ended his statement by saying that he’d proceed with a “responsible transition” to a new policy, but he hasn’t yet spelled out what that phrase means exactly.