News / USA

US Senate Votes to End Ban on Openly-Gay Military Service

Michael Bowman

The U.S. Senate has voted overwhelmingly to end America's ban on openly-gay military service, setting the stage for what some are calling a major advancement of civil rights and others are decrying as risky social engineering at a time of war. A handful of Republican senators joined a united Democratic caucus to repeal the law known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

The Senate vote paves the way for homosexual troops to serve without fear of discharge for their orientation. Some 14,000 American service members have been expelled under a 1993 law that permits gays in uniform only if their sexuality remains secret.

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan, spoke passionately ahead of the landmark vote. "The first casualty in the war in Iraq was a gay soldier. A [land]mine took off his right leg. And that mine that took off his leg didn't give a darn whether he was gay or straight [heterosexual]. We shouldn't, either," he said.

Senate action on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" had been in doubt until several moderate Republicans announced support for repeal. Intensively lobbying them was Independent Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who said ending the ban on openly-gay military service is in keeping with America's ideals of liberty and equality. "We have an opportunity not just to right a wrong, not just to honor the service of American patriots who happen to be gay and lesbian, but to advance the values that the founders of our country articulated in our original American documents," he said.

Repeal opponents argued against forcing the military to revise personnel policies at a time of war. Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona disputed claims that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" harms the armed forces by expelling qualified soldiers. "The military has the highest recruiting and highest retention [rates] of any time in its history," he said.

McCain accused Democrats of subverting national security interests to the narrow agenda of leftist activists. But even before a vote had been cast, he conceded that the ban on openly-gay service would end. He then made a prediction: "I am confident that, with this repeal, our military - the best in the world - will salute and do the best they can to carry out the orders of the commander-in-chief. That is the nature of our military. But don't think that it will not be at great cost," he said.

McCain pointed to comments by America's  top Marine officer suggesting that the presence of gay troops could prove a distraction in combat and lead to casualties. General James Amos expressed opposition to lifting "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", but said Marines will comply with any directive they are given. A recent Pentagon study showed most service members have few, if any objections to serving alongside an openly-gay colleague.

President Barack Obama and America's top military officials hailed the Senate vote, which sends the bill to the president's desk. Once signed into law, the Defense Department will have several months to prepare for the change in policy. The bill stipulates that existing policy will remain in effect until the president, the secretary of defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff affirm that the Pentagon is ready to implement the change.

While conservative social groups lambasted the Senate vote, repeal advocates are celebrating.

"It's an exciting day," said  David Hall, a former Air Force staff sergeant discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell. He was one of dozens of gay ex-service members who watched Saturday's vote from the Senate gallery. "Our military is going to be better. It [repeal] is not going to be a huge change in the military. Now we are just not going to get rid of qualified people," he said.

Once implemented, repeal will quell court battles surrounding "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". A federal appeals court is currently reviewing a lower court ruling that found the policy unconstitutional.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees 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.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More