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Republicans Filibuster ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ Repeal

Susan Shimotsu |
September 21, 2010 | 10:17 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

"Don't ask, don't tell" prohibits gays from openly serving in the military. (Creative Commons)
"Don't ask, don't tell" prohibits gays from openly serving in the military. (Creative Commons)
Despite pleas from Democratic senators to break party lines, the Senate Republicans unanimously voted to filibuster a military bill that would have repealed the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy Tuesday afternoon.

The actual bill is the National Defense Authorization Act, which is voted on annually and included approval for $725 billion in military spending for the fiscal year. Democrats had added several amendments to the legislation, however, including “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the DREAM Act, which would have allowed a path to citizenship for college- and military-bound illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States when they were young. 

These changes were part of the reason some senators who actually oppose the "don't ask, don't tell" policy decided to join the filibuster. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” opponent Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, voted against the bill because she felt Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., did not allow GOP senators the opportunity to debate or add on to the bill. 

Republican senators accused the Democrats of trying to use the military spending bill, defeated 56-43, to tack on amendments that are popular with their voters.

In a strategic move, Reid actually changed his vote to side with the filibuster, but this was only so he can bring the bill back at a later date. This date will not be until after the November elections, endangering “don’t ask, don’t tell” should the Republicans take more seats in the Senate. 

Larry Gross, director of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and an expert in gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender studies and politics, said he does not think anything will change should the Republicans take control of Congress, but notes that the Democrats have had control since 2006 and are in no position to blame the GOP for the lack of progress for “don’t ask, don’t tell” over the past few years.

“In this particular case, the Democrats and President Obama have been reluctant to push the issue despite their expressed desire to repeal it,” Gross said. “Waiting until the last moment is not a sign of the Democrats’ commitment to progress on the issue but appears to be a last minute effort to persuade disinclined voters to vote in this midterm election.”

The earliest the Senate can revote on the bill is in December, which is the same month a Pentagon review of the effects of the policy is due. An Armed Services survey was sent out to all branches of the military to see how those actually affected by “don’t ask, don’t tell” felt about a possible repeal.

Leah, a 20-year-old lance corporal serving in the Marine Corps who asked for her last name to be withheld, said she feels “don’t ask, don’t tell” works fine for the environment it exists in.

“I’ve got a lot of gay friends that are Marines and they can do whatever they want as long as they don’t do it around me,” she said. “But when you talk about letting them serve openly gay, that causes a lot of issues. Our mission as Marines is to go in, kick down doors, take names, and leave. It would be hard to keep that warrior mentality if you have to wonder if the soldier next to you is going to hit on you.”

Whether “don’t ask, don’t tell” is repealed in December or years from now, Gross said he is confident that it will eventually be overturned because of the progressive ideals of the next generation.

“Younger people don’t see [‘don’t ask, don’t tell] or same-sex marriage as a problem,” he said. “These issues will be resolved eventually because the opposition, to put it bluntly, will die.”



To reach reporter Susan Shimotsu, click here.

Follow her on Twitter: @susanfromtx


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