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U.S. Senate votes to allow repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell'

News release from Human Rights Campaign, HRC:

Discriminatory Law on its Way to the Dustbin of History

WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. Senate voted on legislation that will allow for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).  This historic action comes on the heels of the passage of an identical bill Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives.  President Obama has said that he will sign DADT repeal into law.

“Today, America lived up to its highest ideals of freedom and equality. Congress recognized that all men and women have the right to openly serve their country,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Plenty of people had already planned the funeral for this legislation. Today, we pulled out a victory from what was almost certain defeat just a few days ago. We are grateful to President Obama, Majority Leader Reid and Sens. Lieberman, Collins and countless others for their dogged determination to repeal DADT.”

Today’s vote caps off two weeks of frenetic, roller-coaster activity. Last week, the Senate voted for the second time against allowing debate to begin on the National Defense Authorization Act, to which DADT repeal was attached. As a result, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced a stand-alone repeal bill in the Senate. This Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a DADT bill sponsored by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA). That bill was advanced to the Senate and voted on today.

DADT was made a law seventeen years ago and is the only U.S. law that punishes people for simply telling the truth. Since the law went into effect, over 14,000 gay and lesbian service members have been discharged from our nation’s military simply because they were gay or lesbian. An estimated 66,000 gays and lesbians are currently on active-duty. Twenty-three studies over the past fifty years, including most recently a comprehensive study by the Pentagon, have concluded the same thing: that there would be no to minimal impact on force cohesion or unit readiness by allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military. Thirty-countries currently allow gays and lesbians to serve in their nation’s armed forces. Over the past two years, HRC has worked steadily, including dedicating over $3 million in financial resources, to bring about today’s successful outcome. Click hereto see a summary of our work.

Senator Joe Lieberman, the sponsor of the Senate bill, added his perspective to this historic day. “This ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010’ removes a law that discriminates against military service members based solely on their sexual orientation and also harms our national security.   This historic day has been seventeen years in the making and would not have happened without the leadership of Joe Solmonese and the Human Rights Campaign.”

“This is an historic moment.  Like our closest allies, the United States’ Armed Forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable of serving our country,” said Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine).  “And, I agree with Defense Secretary Gates that it is critical that the issue is decided by Congress, not the courts.”

Following enactment of this legislation, the repeal of DADT will happen only after certification by the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that policies have been written to implement repeal and compliance with these polices is consistent with military readiness.  The Human Rights Campaign issues a critical warning to service members that repeal of DADT is not effective immediately and service members are still at risk of being discharged on the basis of their sexual orientation until certification occurs and an additional 60 days have passed.  Click here to see the Pathway to Final Repeal.

“This has been a long fought battle, but this failed and discriminatory law will now be history,” added Solmonese.  “Congress now joins the majority of our troops and the American public in the common sense belief that on the battlefield, it does not matter whether a service member is lesbian, gay or straight – what matters is that a service member gets the job done. The President can now fulfill his promise and sign this repeal legislation into law.  After signing this legislation, we call on the President and Secretary of Defense to act expeditiously to complete the steps necessary to implement final repeal.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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News release from Servicemembers United:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Servicemembers United, the nation's largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, released the following statement today regarding the Senate's successful cloture vote on the bill that would repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) law:

"This vote represents an historic step forward for this country, and it will very likely be a life-changing moment for gay and lesbian troops," said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former multi-lingual Army interrogator who was discharged under DADT. "While we still have a long road ahead, including a final passage vote, the certification process, and a yet-to-be-determined implementation period, those who defend our freedom while living in fear for their careers will finally breathe a  sigh of relief tonight, and those who have fallen victim to this policy in years past will finally begin to see true closure and redemption on the horizon."

For more information about Servicemembers United and "Don't Ask, Dont' Tell," please visit www.ServicemembersUnited.org. For the most comprehensive collection of polling data, discharge statistics, academic works, legislative and congressional material, and more, visit www.DADTArchive.org.

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News release from Lambda Legal:

"Today our country has lived up to the values that lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers have sworn to defend."

(New York, December 18, 2010) - In response to today's Senate vote that sets the stage for an end to the U.S. military's 17-year-old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy barring gays and lesbians from serving openly, Lambda Legal issued the following statement from Executive Director Kevin Cathcart:

"Today our country lived up to the values that lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers swore to defend. These members of America's armed forces have been a model of dignity and courage as they faced not only the dangers of military action, but also the unfair and discriminatory conduct of their own government. Today, the end of that era of discrimination is finally in sight."

"It is time for our country to move forward. An overwhelming majority of the American public supports letting lesbian and gay troops serve openly and with honor. The recent survey of military personnel and their families shows an overwhelming majority - 90 percent - are fine serving alongside a gay or lesbian servicemember. Our military and the security of our country will be strengthened by finally ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

"This has been a heroic political battle by LGBT advocates who refused to give up. We congratulate the many lesbian and gay servicemembers who risked or sacrificed their careers to fight for justice; the many LGBT advocacy groups and allies who fought with them; and the members of Congress who voted for justice."

Lambda Legal began its fight against discrimination in the military in 1975. Over the years Lambda Legal has been proud to represent many members of the military including Margarethe Cammermeyer, Joseph Steffan, Dusty Pruitt and Copy Berg. This year, Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief, in a challenge brought by Log Cabin Republicans, urging the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to leave in place pending appeal an injunction against enforcement of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, saying that its impact extends far beyond those in uniform, to include lesbian, gay and bisexual adults and youth, who must contend with the consequences of the discriminatory messages perpetuated by "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

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News release from National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force applauded the Senate’s cloture vote today allowing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal bill to proceed to the full Senate for a vote. The Task Force has been working in coalition with other organizations advocating for repeal of the military ban on openly lesbian, gay and bisexual service members.

Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

"This vote today marks a critical step toward creating a path that could end in lesbian, gay and bisexual people finally being able to serve openly, honestly, and to great benefit of our country. Three-quarters of Americans say ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ should be repealed, as do top military leaders. We thank those senators who supported cloture today, and urge the full Senate to pass ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal. It’s time to end this costly and discriminatory policy. Until then, the lives and careers of thousands of courageous, qualified and patriotic service members will continue to hang in the balance."

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Congratulations from this Tea Bagger. Good win! Makes us a better America. :D

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