News / USA

Congress Moves Closer to Repealing a Ban on Gays Serving Openly in the US Military

Cindy Saine

The U.S. Congress has taken a major step forward towards repealing a ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the U.S. military.  Gay rights advocates and civil rights groups cheered the vote, while some conservative religious groups and some Republican lawmakers said repealing the ban would be harmful to morale and to the readiness of the U.S. military.

The House of Representatives voted 234 to 194 late Thursday to approve an amendment aimed at ending the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" policy established in 1993 that allows homosexuals to serve in the U.S. military in secret, but expels them if they reveal their sexual orientation.  The vote came only a few hours after a similar vote to repeal the ban by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Gay rights advocates called the two votes Thursday "a watershed moment" in their efforts to put an end to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which they say discriminates against homosexuals who want to serve their country.  

Jarrod Chlapowski is a veteran who served in South Korea and is the military adviser to the Human Rights Campaign gay rights group. "It is such a momentous occasion to see all these members of Congress coming out in support, I mean having a majority of 234 votes in the House is just incredible.  It is very surreal right now, particularly for people I know who are just waiting to go back in [to the military]," he said.

Under the amendment, the repeal would not go into effect until after a review by senior U.S. military leaders, due to be completed in December. The repeal of the ban also has to be passed by the full U.S Senate before it can become law, and requires that the president, the defense secretary and the Joint Chiefs of Staff all agree that the change will not hurt the military's ability to fight.

Repubican lawmakers opposed the amendment, saying Congress should wait until the review process set up by the Obama administration is complete.  

Tom McClusky is Senior Vice President of Family Research Council Action, the legislative arm of the conservative religious group, Family Research Council.  McClusky said President Obama and other Democrats are trying to push the repeal through Congress for political reasons.  "It affects readiness, it affects retention and it affects recruitment, and until that is found to be different, the president and Congress has no right and should not be moving forward in changing the policy," he said.

One of the amendment's sponsors, Democrative Representative Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania said the U.S. military needs all the able-bodied troops it can get to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "When I served in Baghdad, my team did not care whether a fellow soldier was straight or gay.  We cared if they could fire their M-4 assault rifle or run a convoy down Ambush alley.  Could they do their job so that everybody in our unit would come home safely?," he said.

President Barack Obama has been seeking to repeal the ban, and said in a statement the legislation to repeal the ban would make the U.S. military "even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has publicly made clear that he supports allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the U.S. military, said he would have preferred that Congress waited until after the Pentagon's review is complete.

A recent opinion survey by CNN found that 70 percent of Americans are in favor of repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs