"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Is Dead. How Did Our Congresspeople Vote?

Categories: LGBT, News
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Unless you've been hiding out under a rock, you probably heard that Saturday, the Senate followed the House in voting to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." DADT, signed into law in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, was meant to be a compromise on allowing lesbian, gay and bisexual soldiers to serve in the U.S. military as long as they clammed up about their identities.

With this historic vote in place, the repeal will become law with a signature from President Barack Obama, who said while campaigning for the presidency that he hoped to do so. After that, the military has 60 days to implement the repeal and gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers will be able to serve openly. Since DADT was enacted in 1993, almost 12,000 soldiers have been discharged for violating it, according to data compiled by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

The House approved the repeal last week 270-175, with Missouri Democrats Russ Carnahan, Lacy Clay and Emanuel Cleaver voting for repeal. Republicans Todd Akin, Roy Blunt, Jo Ann Emerson, Sam Graves and Blaine Luetkemeyer, as well as ousted Democrat Ike Skelton, voted against repeal.

Saturday in the Senate, Democrat Claire McCaskill voted for repeal and Republican Kit Bond voted against it. In that vote, 65 Senators, including 8 Republicans, voted for repeal.

Before DADT, the military's official position was that homosexuality was "clearly incompatible" with military service. Under DADT, gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers were welcome to serve as long as they hid their identities and never mentioned their sexual orientation, though they could be discharged even while hiding their identities, if a superior found out about their private lives.

Inside the military community, support for DADT waned over the years. This November, the Department of Defense polled 400,000 servicemembers and 150,000 military spouses. Seventy percent of the soldiers said allowing gays, lesbians and bisexuals to serve openly would be positive, mixed or of no consequence. In February, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen spoke against DADT before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

While DADT was perhaps a step toward something like equality for gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers, it was highly flawed and forced people into hiding. During your workday today, notice how many times you or your coworkers casually refer to your own sexual orientation: did Mary from accounting mention seeing Black Swan with her husband this weekend? Did you chat with Joe the mail carrier about that new girl he's seeing? Under DADT, that kind of  chatter would derail a person's career, no matter how skilled of a soldier or sincere of a patriot they might be.

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