Washington (CNN) – The House of Representatives is expected address a major hot-button political issue Friday, voting on a plan to overturn the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring openly gay and lesbian soldiers from military service.
The House already gave tentative approval to the proposal Thursday by passing it in the form of an amendment to a defense policy bill. The amendment passed in a 234-194 vote. The entire bill is slated to come up for a vote on Friday.
The repeal plan is also gaining momentum in the Senate, where the Armed Services Committee voted 16-12 Thursday to include it in the policy bill. The panel then voted 18-10 to send the measure to the full Senate.
President Barack Obama praised the votes in a statement released Thursday night.
"I am pleased that both the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee took important bipartisan steps toward repeal," Obama said. "This legislation will help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity."
The Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, called it the first time since the "don't ask, don't tell" policy came into effect during the Clinton administration that any congressional body voted to repeal it.
"This is the beginning of the end of a shameful ban on open service by lesbian and gay troops that has weakened our national security," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.
The Senate committee's vote on the amendment was mostly partisan, with 15 Democrats and one Republican - Sen. Susan Collins of Maine - supporting the compromise repeal language. Thursday's House vote also was along largely partisan lines, with 229 Democrats and five Republicans supporting the repeal amendment, while 168 Republicans and 26 Democrats opposed it.
Under the compromise, the repeal would occur after a military review of the matter and subsequent approval by Obama, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Opponents of the repeal language said the military should first carry out the review ordered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that is scheduled to be completed in December. Only then would military leaders have the necessary information from force members to develop a plan for carrying out the repeal, according to the opponents.
"I see no reason to pre-empt the process that our senior Defense Department leaders put into motion, and I am concerned that many members of the military would view such a move as disrespectful to the importance of their roles in this process," said Sen. Jim Webb, D-Virginia, who voted against the amendment.
A recent CNN poll seemed to suggest that Americans were ready for the change. The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Tuesday indicated that 78 percent of the public supports allowing openly gay people to serve in the military, with one in five opposed.
The compromise gave time for the military to complete its review of the
planned repeal, as sought by Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman, both said this week they could accept the compromise language.
Supporters of repealing the policy have been pressuring congressional Democrats to act now, fearing the party will lose its House or Senate majority in November's midterm election and be unable to pass the measure then.
The compromise emerged late Monday from a meeting at the White House involving administration officials, gay rights groups and Pentagon officials, sources told CNN.
There were also talks on Capitol Hill involving White House lawyers, Pentagon officials and staff from the offices of influential House and Senate Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the sources added.
A senior U.S. military official with direct knowledge of the review process told CNN it was well under way, with a survey going out shortly to
about 70,000 troops and families to solicit their views.
In addition, the official said, town hall meetings already have been held around the country and more are expected, while a website provides a place for troops to write in their views.
The military needs until the end of 2010 to figure out how to implement the repeal in terms of housing, medical and marriage benefits, as well as issues involving the reinstatement of gay soldiers previously discharged under the policy, the official said.
A major problem might be determining how to reconcile the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" with federal law that defines marriage as between a man a woman, the official added.
The fear mongers, bigots and ignorant fantasy merchants have only begun to fight!
How many heterosexual/straight military men and women are going to want to shower/bunk with openly gay men and women.
If they end up repealing DADT--I hope that every single straight military man/woman files lawsuits based on discrimination of their 'rights' to be heterosexual/straight.
Wow, some of ya'll seem to be afraid the soldiers might get gay "cooties" if asked to serve along side them. Guess what? Service members don't have a "right" to refuse to serve with any particular class of Americans, anymore than they got to vote on their "rights" to serve with African-Americans. Grow up, people. Being around gays won't make you gay unless you're already halfway there. Could that be your real problem?
I personally am not against homosexual relationships or gay marriage; however, this issue is somewhat more complicated then many understand. As a former Marine, I am fully aware of the challenges that this will create given the culture and operational conditions of the military. Yes. It is true that gays have served in militaries long before our own, and including our own. However, this is not a discussion about one's ability to serve, but their ability to serve openly and with protections at all levels. This is where the issue becomes complex.
I am not personally saying that someone should not have the right to serve openly, I am merely pointing out the fact that it will have some negative ramifications on our military becuase of the personalities, beliefs, and traditional mindsets of the vast majority of those who do serve in the military. I agree with the previous comment that a more accurate poll would be one that solely includes current active duty and retired members.
As a Marine, when you are showering right next to your fellow Marines, going to the bathroom right in front of them in the field, or sleeping right next to them in order to carry less equipment and utilize body heat – I think these situations would be problematic for many of our service men and women. If we use the example of whether we would feel comfortable in these situations with the opposite sex, I think we could easily agree that we would be unless we had other mutual intentions. There would also be plenty of situations where someone would be treated as an outcast by their fellow service men and women, which would subsequently affect unit cohesion. This may not happen in every occasion, but it will happen. It will also have an impact on recruitment, which will not be countered by whatever small increase in gay members there may be.
What most people don't understand is that this is a cultural change, which is the most difficult type of change to implement – especially in an environment like the military. I am an Obama supporter and an active Democrat; however, I do realize that this has probably taken on a more urgent status as a strategic measure to garner more votes in upcoming elections. My personal opinion is that the review should be performed first, and that if this change is implemented – it should be done gradually and with careful consideration. Semper Fi.
Repeal the dang thing already. It's been too much of a distraction since 1993. Even before DADT we've had 'em in the military since there was such a thing as a military. I know they're in and they do just as good or bad of a job as anybody else and who gives a rat's patootie. Everybody knows. Only the insecure have a squawk about it, and everybody knows that too. This dumb law only forces everybody to just lie to themselves. What a dumb way to run a military- by pretending.
Why the rush? Can' t the DemocRATS wait until the military is done with their analysis? Or is politics and PC correctness overiding the needs of the military and our servicemen and women?
Can someone tell me why I should care what Tony Perkins has to say about his or any other issue? The Family Research Council is ultra-traditional in its views. Maybe they would also like to see all women in the home, homeschooling their children. Christian ministers are ministering to gay people all over the world, at least if they are following Christ's teachings. No one is supposed to be excluded from being saved under that "big tent." Perkins has been in the middle of some scandals, too, which further undermines his credibility.
i wonder what american generals must be thinking,,, i bet the great generals in our proud history are rolling over in there graves,,, sad very sad...
Discrimination, racism, bias still runs strong in our country.
Thankfully, the majority of the American people are not that small.
Don't Care. Why all of the drama about allowing gays to serve openly in the military? Just do it. The drama is annoying.
Comments show the lack of understanding of the current policy, who asked for the policy change and a general understanding of the purpose of the military. The military is charged with keeping our country safe and free and to defend the constitution. It is a privilege, not a right to serve in the military. The current policy of Don't Ask Don't Tell enabled those gays who wanted to serve in the military to do that as long as their sexual behavior did not get in the way. Those individuals that have been discharged (honorably I may add) from the military "because they were gay." were discharged because their sexual behavior was disrupting unit cohesiveness. It is not discrimination against one because of who they are but action taken in the best interest of the military based on behavior of the individual. The military did not come to Congress asking them to change the policy. The policy change came as a political payoff by the current administration and many members of Congress. It is wrong to use the military for social change. There are plenty of places that are used for that. The purpose of the military is different. Everyone is at risk – gay and straight alike when changes are made in military policy that could disrupt the focus of the members of the military.
brenda you are so stupid. if there is already gay people in the military. then they are alreadying showering publicly and they just don't know who's gay and who's not. so besides making gays and lesbians more honest with everyone how does this new repeal hurt any of the military personnel? your just dumb. and who cares what the majority of the military has to say about it.. fair is fair...and discrimination has to stop regardless of subject matter.
The heroes in the military fight for our freedom, as they always have. They are brave men and women and deserve the respect in asking their opinion. I just hope they remember that what they're fighting for overseas and around the world is what we're still fighting for here in the United States.
Everyone deserves the right to defend and fight for their country, especially a great one like the United States. Freedom and inclusion is what is being begged for by many Americans. That fight shouldn't still be going on and I sincerely hope that bigotry and hate stop playing such a big role in our country's history.
What's funny is this is made out to be a Left vs Right thing when Clinton was the one who signed this into law.
I served in the USAF and the vast majority of the military does not want gays serving next to them. I could care less personally.
I don't think congress should be voting on this. I think it should be up to the Joint Chiefs.