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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid