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« Senate Blocks Bill for Young Illegal Immigrants | Main | The Best and Worst of 2010 »

'Don't ask, don't tell' repeal wins final passage

The "gay" lovers of the Senate. When can we vote them out?

The Senate voted Saturday afternoon to repeal the ban on gays in the military, marking a major victory for gay rights and an impending end to the 17-year old "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

The bill now heads to President Barack Obama, who plans to sign it into law, overturning what repeal advocates believed was a discriminatory policy that unfairly ended the careers of thousands of gay members of the military over the years.

The 65-31 Senate vote marked a historic – and emotional – moment for the gay-rights movement and handed Obama a surprising political triumph in the closing days of the 111th Congress. The legislation had been left for dead as recently as last week after Senate Republicans blocked efforts to advance it, yet on final passage, the bill won support from eight Republicans, an unexpectedly high total.

The repeal, which would not take effect for many months, ushers in a major cultural shift for a military that has operated under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy since the first year of Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Shortly after the final tally was announced, a handful of top White House officials, led by Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, congratulated and embraced gay-rights leaders who had gathered just off the Senate floor.

“It’s a historic moment,” said Jarrett, who had never attended a vote before. “It wouldn’t have happened without Congress obviously, the president’s leadership and so many people across the country who became engaged in the issue … Everybody played a vital role in today’s success.”

The Senate vote capped months of uncertainty about whether Congress or the federal courts, where gay-rights advocates are fighting the ban, would act first to repeal the policy.

The real drama had already come a few hours earlier when the repeal bill cleared a crucial procedural hurdle. The 63-33 cloture vote was three more than needed to beat back a Republican filibuster.

With support from all but one member of the Democratic caucus and help from six Republicans, the standalone bill overcame the 60-vote threshold required to move forward.

The Republican senators voting “yes” with the Democrats in the cloture vote were Mark Kirk of Illinois, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, George Voinovich of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine.

Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and John Ensign of Nevada joined the six other Republicans in bucking their party on the historic final vote.

“It was a difficult vote for many of them,” said Collins, who introduced the legislation with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), of her GOP colleagues. “But in the end they concluded – as I have concluded – that we should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing to put on the uniform of this country, fight for us in war zones … and put freedom on the line for us.”

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who previously stated he opposes repeal, was the only Democrat to miss the vote, apparently because of a family “holiday gathering,” his spokeswoman said.

Obama called the Senate vote an “historic step” toward ending a discriminatory policy that weakens America’s national security and violates the ideals troops risk their lives to defend. [...] go read the other POS pages at the Leftinistra rag called the Politico

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