May 27th, 2010
06:46 PM ET
12 years ago

Senate panel, House approve 'don't ask, don't tell' compromise plan

Washington (CNN) - The U.S. House and a Senate committee approved amendments to a military bill Thursday that would repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring openly gay and lesbian soldiers from military service, but only after some conditions are met.

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted 16-12 to approve compromise language on the repeal in an amendment to the military policy bill. The panel then voted 18-10 to send the bill to the full Senate.

In the House, the chamber voted 234-194 to add the amendment to its version of the defense policy bill. A final vote on the full bill was expected Friday.

President Barack Obama praised the votes.

"I am pleased that both the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee took important bipartisan steps toward repeal tonight," Obama said in a statement. "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. The 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 worked 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.

- CNN's Ted Barrett and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

Filed under: Don't Ask Don't Tell
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Livin' the good life

    Our good ol' tax money at work. Why not pass this thing and get it over with. We are "suppose" to be the greatest nation on earth and other countries have surpassed us years ago on this. Maybe we are "uncivilized" and do not know it?...Beau Colby

    PS: Just because someone is gay does NOT mean they want to bed everyone of the same sex! Are YOU attracted to everyone based on your preference? I should think not!

    May 27, 2010 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  2. GOP is bad for America

    Good policy for America and another achievement for the Obama administration.

    May 27, 2010 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  3. guy from NM

    2010 and still the US (as usual ) still lags behind everyone else.

    May 27, 2010 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  4. Michael

    The compromise bill is completely unacceptable. The only acceptable legislation is that which repeals DADT immediately and ammends the Uniform Code of Military Justice to remove any reference to homosexuality being a criminal offense.

    May 27, 2010 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  5. John

    Health Care, Financial reform, and now DADT......achievements are beginning to mount up. Do I sense a little bit of bi-partisanship.....better late than never!!

    May 27, 2010 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  6. ehwilson429

    this as most things the Senate does will backfire on them.

    there is one thing they have never done and that is ask the employees of the military what they want.

    Bobby Gates the Sec of DOD doesn't have a clue because besides being a dwarf he was a DRAFT DODGER during Vietnam.

    he is like the special treatment Bush and the coward Obama.

    what does the military want?
    i don't hear veterans asking for a gay military.
    but here's an idea – how about an ALL gay military?

    May 27, 2010 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  7. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    I Don't understand how "Christian" "Conservatives" can think that some people are less equal than them...
    I really just don't get it.

    I look forward to the days when all Americans can represent their Country (if they desire) AND represent themselves.

    May 27, 2010 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  8. Tracy - Oakland CA

    Looks like HRC/Joe Solmonese did what it does best: compromise away anything tangible for Gays and Lesbians, sell out the community for false hope, and throw the rest under the bus.

    Basically, what this really means is that the military will finish its review by the end of this year, but has no pressure or timetable to actually lift the ban. So, DADT could be repealed at the beginning of 2011, or whenever the military gets around to making a real "plan" – so this could drag on for years.

    Thanks HRC and Joe: I raise my middle finger in salute to you.

    May 27, 2010 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  9. GJ

    Thank god! Keep it going.

    May 27, 2010 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  10. Eric

    I wonder how Rep. Franks views the integration of African-Americans and women into American armed forces? The same old tired arguments about "cohesiveness" were used.

    But since Rep. Franks is up for re-election this year, he's going to deploy tired, old arguments, which won't work given the momentum of various Tea Party groups, who want less government intrusion.

    May 27, 2010 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  11. Willy Brown

    Democrats are in full panic mode for November's elections. They will lick your boots for votes this fall.

    May 27, 2010 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  12. Robert

    "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.

    I see a big reason: Republicans. Should they win back the House or Senate in November, repeal would not be possible.

    78% of the public supports repeal. It is the only morally right thing to do under a constitution that guarantees equal treatment to all.

    By having Congress vote away the ban contingent upon Obama and the Joint Chiefs of Staff approving it after a review, they are effectively removing Congress (and the nasty divisive politics Republicans would play with it) from the decision, and leaving it up to the commander and chief and the military leaders which is where it belongs.

    So, senator Webb.... get with it and vote the right way!!!

    May 27, 2010 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  13. vwrtb

    The American people do not want any more conservative ideological agendas... Stop trying to turn this whole country into kentucky! Grandpa's ideas are not relevant any more.. And American workers are tired of republican teat suckers...

    May 27, 2010 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  14. JES

    They knew before they enlisted the rules if they didn't like them why join.

    We don't have adraft anymore and like everything else you have rules that are agreeded on and they did. Get over it and leave it alone.

    The DADT needs to stay the way it is and if you don't like it don't enlist period.

    May 27, 2010 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  15. KLS

    If any gay man or woman wants to join our military to protect all that we hold dear and are willing to give the ultimate sacrifice to our freedoms, then what difference does their sexual preference make?

    The military and sadly many Americans fought hard for years to keep Blacks, women and other minorities from serving our great nation. Now our armed forces are stronger because of these brave patriotic people.

    God Bless ALL of America’s men and women in uniform!!

    May 27, 2010 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  16. mike

    Is it "lesbian and gay" or "homosexuals"? If you want to be treated as normal citizens, don't try to hide behind code words. You're either heterosexuals, bisexuals or homosexuals. I'm all for you to be treated fairly as is your right but stop with the cute terms and call it what it is.

    May 27, 2010 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |