On January 27th, President Barack Obama declared during a joint session of Congress for his first State of the Union address that the time had come to repeal the 17-year-old discriminatory policy known as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. It took nearly a full year to get it done, and at times it wasn’t easy, but on a special Saturday in Washington DC, 65 Senators agreed with the president that “it’s the right thing to do.”
That night President Obama said “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.”
The president spent much of his political capital in getting this policy repealed, and today he can both breathe a sigh of relief and taste a sweet victory. This is his victory.
Just nine days ago it looked like all hope for repeal was lost. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid mistakenly moved a cloture vote to the floor without the necessary 60 votes, and it looked like the lame-duck session wouldn’t be able to vote for repeal. But Senators Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Udall of Colorado introduced a stand-alone bill, which the Senate passed on Saturday with a 65-31 margin.
The Senate likes to pay lip service to “listening to the will of the American people,” and today they did. The latest Gallup poll shows two-thirds of Americans say they favor repealing the policy.
When the House passed the stand-alone repeal bill earlier this week, only 15 Republicans voted in favor iof it, leaving 150 against. Amazingly on Saturday, eight Senate Republicans joined all but one Democrat — newly elected West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin conveniently had a “holiday gathering” — in supporting repeal. Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and John Ensign of Nevada were late surprise switches. Senators Scott Brown of Massachusetts, George Voinovich of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine had been largely expected to cast their vote in favor of repeal.
Senator John McCain, a bitter man to the very end, continued to campaign against it.
So what did Harry Reid do in celebration? He tweeted at hardcore repeal-proponent Lady Gaga: “@ladygaga #DADT on it’s way to becoming history,” Reid tweeted at Lady Gaga to his more than 15,000 followers.”
The repeal will not take effect immediately. First, the President must sign it, which will happen next week. Then, under the repeal bill, the President, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs must certify to Congress that lifting the ban won’t impair U.S. military performance. Next, the military must wait 60 days before implementing the repeal.
It’s not known exactly how many military personnel have been discharged from the services under the DADT policy since it took effect in 1993, but the most often cited statistic put the number at about 13,500. We can’t make it up to those 13,500, but the president must be excited about the message this sends to brave men and women who want to live their lives openly and serve their country. A major victory.
If you want to check the roll call to see how your senator voted, do so right here.
What do you think about today’s important vote? About time? Is this a victory for the president?