The House of Representatives has for the second time passed a bill to overturn the US’s military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy that bans military personnel from being openly gay.
The vote, which was was 250 to 175, pressurises the Senate to delay its recess for Christmas in order to vote to repeal or keep the law. In January, those senators and congressmen elected in the mid-term elections held last month, will be sworn into office, with more Republicans in office, diminishing hopes of finally ending the ban.
“It’s been a long time coming, but now is the time for us to act,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrats) said prior to the vote. “We know our first responsibility as elected officials. We take an oath of office to protect and defend, and our first responsibility is to protect the American people, to keep them safe. We should honor the service of all who want to contribute to that security.”
Yesterday, the head of the marines said that repealing the law would lead to the death of troops troops. “When your life hangs on a line, on the intuitive behaviour of the young man … who sits to your right and your left, you don’t want anything distracting you,” said Marine Commandant General James Amos.
“I don’t want to lose any Marines to distraction. I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda [hospital] with no legs,” he added.
“When your life hangs on the line, you don’t want anything distracting. . . . Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines’ lives. That’s the currency of this fight.”
But senior military officials including the Defense Secretary Robert Gates support the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’.
In May, the House of Representatives voted 234-194, in favour of repealing the ban. This was followed by the Senate Armed Services Committee who followed the same path and voted 16-12 in favour of axing the law. In both cases, the measure was offered as an amendment to a defence spending bill
But, the hopes to repeal the law have been continually blocked in the Senate, mainly on procedural grounds. Just last week, a bill failed to get the 60 votes needed for a debate to be initiated.
A new bill, focused purely on the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has been introduced by Senator Susan Collins and former Vice-Presidential candidate Senator Joe Lieberman. The vote in the House of Representatives, puts enormous pressure on the Senate to debate the issue this weekend, before the recess.