Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Passes in the House
Updated at 6:25 p.m. ET
After impassioned debate both for and against the measure, the House of Representatives today passed a standalone bill to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The measure passed by a vote of 250 to 175, and the House broke into applause at the announcement of the final vote.
The measure was introduced Tuesday, in the final days of the Democratic-led 111th Congress, after the Senate last week failed to pass a defense authorization bill that included a repeal of the policy. "Don't ask," which has been in effect since 1993, prohibits gays from serving openly in the military.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today that repealing the law would fix a "fundamental unfairness in our nation" and "honor the service and sacrifice of all who dedicated their lives to protecting the American people."
While the initial repeal measure failed in the Senate, Democrats are now confident they can find 60 votes there to pass this standalone bill. The party is working against time, however. Before they take up the "don't ask" repeal, Senate Democrats are committed to taking up other significant issues, like the ratification of a nuclear treaty with Russia and a government-funding bill.
The Senate is attempting to take up all of these matters before breaking for Christmas recess. This effort represents the "don't ask" repeal's best chance for passage, since Republicans would be unlikely to put the issue up for a vote again once they take control of the House next year.
Both Democrats and Republicans took to the House floor today to appeal to their colleagues' highest ideals.
"Today we have a chance to do what is right," said Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Penn.), a sponsor of the bill and an Iraq War veteran. "Not just for gay and lesbian troops serving in our military, but what is right for national security."
He cited an extensive Pentagon study recently released, Pentagon study, which concluded that allowing gays to serve openly would not have long-lasting negative consequences on the military. Murphy pointed out the study showed that a majority of military troops approve of the policy's repeal.
"Our troops are the best of the best, and they deserve a Congress that puts their safety and our collective national security over rigid partisan interests and close-minded ideology."
Republican Rep. Mike Pence (Indiana) insisted his opposition to the repeal is not based on morals but on what is best for the military.
"As a conservative, I have a particular world view about certain moral questions, [but] they do not bear upon this issue," he said. "This business is not taking palce in a vacuum. We are a nation at war."
Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) also cited his concern for military cohesiveness and called the repeal a "bomb of social experimentation." He discounted the Pentagon study, calling it "flawed from the get go." Fleming argued it focused more on how to implement a repeal, instead of whether to implement it.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) expressed more vehement concern about unit cohesiveness in the face of a repeal. He said that countries that allow gays to serve openly in the military are "toward the end of their existences as a great nation."
Some Democrats urged their colleagues to vote for the repeal in the name of civil rights. Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), recalling his experiences from the 1960's civil rights movement, said, "I don't need a survey to tell me what's right when it comes to human rights. I will not ask people who are willing to die for my country to live a lie for my country."
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