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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

U.S. House Passes DADT Repeal; Heinrich, Teague, Lujan Vote Yes

The U.S. House today passed a stand-alone bill to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) by a margin of 250-175. I can proudly report that all three of New Mexico's congressmen -- Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02) and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03) -- voted yes. Unfortunately, a total of 15 misguided Democrats voted no on a measure that has long been strongly support by the American public as well as top military officials, and 5 Dems didn't vote.

As for the Republicans, 15 voted to repeal DADT, while 160 voted no and 4 didn't vote. Apparently 160 Republicans believe that politics and obstructionism should come before the doing the right thing by gay and lesbian members of the military like former Lt. Dan Choi. By the way, it was revealed today that Choi -- who was discharged from the service after coming out publicly on the Rachel Maddow show and who has been one of the most out-front and courageous fighters for equality in the armed services -- has been hospitalized at a VA facility due to suffering a "nervous breakdown." Pam's House Blend has a email from Choi discussing what happened and why. And in an email sent to msnbc.com from his iPhone, Choi said:

Anxiety attack and nervous breakdown after senate dadt ndaa vote. Overall stressors were many: family, homelessness, discharge and activist rollercoaster.

The Senate vote mentioned by Choi blocked movement of the defense spending bill that contained a provision to repeal DADT. Republicans voted en masse against cloture on the bill, stopping it in its tracks. While Republicans play political games, members of the military being punished and repressed by DADT continue to suffer.

The Dems are using a procedural tool to speed up action on the bill on the Senate side in the face of continuing obstructionism on the part of Republicans. The measure was passed in the House as an amendment to a bill called the Enhancing Small Business Research and Innovation Act of 2009. As explained in the New York Times Caucus blog:

For procedural reasons aimed at circumnavigating some of the blocking efforts by Republicans in the Senate, the Democrats needed a legislative vehicle that the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, could call up without a round of votes that could take up the better part of a week.

And using the small business measure as a legislative “shell” does the trick. The language authorizing repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is substituted for the language in the small business bill. And presuming it is approved by the House [it passed today], it can be returned to the Senate as a privileged message making it easier for Mr. Reid to call it up.

Here's the DADT repeal text that was inserted into the small business bill.

Rep. Heinrich issued this statement after the vote:

If someone is willing to take up arms and defend this nation in our military, they shouldn’t face a policy of discrimination, period. Repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” continues a tradition that service to our country should be judged based on conduct and capability, not race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Rep. Heinrich is a cosponsor of H.R. 1283, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2009, which would repeal the DADT policy. An amendment to the Defense Authorization Act that calls for a repeal of DADT passed the House on May 27, 2010 with the support of Rep. Heinrich.

Poll after poll show that the American people strongly support repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, released today, finds that nearly eight in 10 Americans favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

The Department of Defense survey of service members on repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” released last month, also had striking results.  Seventy percent of service members believe that serving beside an openly gay colleague would have positive, mixed or no effect on unit cohesion.  And of the troops who believe that they have already worked with a gay service member, an overwhelming 92 percent believe that doing so was a very good, good, or neutral experience.

On November 30, 2010, Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, “I am determined to see that if the law is repealed,” he said, “the changes are implemented in such a way as to minimize any negative impact on the morale, cohesion and effectiveness of combat units that are deployed, or about to deploy to the front lines,” Gates said at a Pentagon news conference.

December 15, 2010 at 08:31 PM in Civil Liberties, GLBT Rights, Military Affairs, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) | Permalink

Comments

I'm sure the Senate will find a way to fail on this.

Thank you Representatives Heinrich, Teague and Lujan!!

Posted by: bg | Dec 16, 2010 8:34:41 AM

The Senate just passed it, 65-31. HOORAY! Below are quotes from Reid and Wyden:

"As Barry Goldwater said, 'You don't have to be straight to shoot straight,'" said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), referring to the late GOP senator from Arizona.

"I don't care who you love, if you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn't have to hide who you are. You ought to be able to serve," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Dec 18, 2010 2:33:58 PM