The House of Representatives has for the second time this year voted to dismantle the US military’s so-called “don’t ask,don’t tell” policy,giving the Senate a final shot in the waning days of this Congress at changing a law that forces thousands of uniformed gays to hide their sexual orientation.
The strong 250-175 House yesterday’s vote propels the issue to the Senate,where supporters of the repeal say they have the votes but it is uncertain whether they will have the time to get the bill to the Senate floor.
It could be the last chance for some time to end the 1993 law that forbids recruiters from asking about sexual orientation while prohibiting soldiers from acknowledging that they are gay.
Democratic leaders in the Senate say they are committed to bring the bill to the floor before Congress adjourns for the year before Christmas.
They are challenged by opposition from some Republicans and a daunting agenda that includes finishing work on legislation to pay for government operations and to ratify a nuclear arms treaty with Russia.
No time has been set for a Senate vote.
Senate Majority Leader Democrat Harry Reid said after the House vote that there is clear evidence that an overwhelming majority of Congress wants to repeal the law.
“We are very quickly running out of days in this Congress,” Reid said in a statement. “The time for week-long negotiations on amendments and requests for days of debate is over.
Republican senators who favour repealing this discriminatory policy need to join with us now to stand against those who are trying to run out the clock on this Congress.”
Failure to overturn the policy this year could relegate the issue to the back burner next year when Republicans,who are far less supportive of allowing openly gay individuals to serve in the military,take over the House and gain strength in the Senate.
“Now is the time for us to act,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,and “close the door on a fundamental unfairness in our nation.”
Gaveling the end of the vote was Democratic Rep. Barney Frank,one of the House’s few openly gay members. Frank,in his floor speech,said it was “bigoted nonsense” that “the presence of someone like me will so destabilise our brave young men and women that they will be unable to do their duty.”
“This vote,” said Rep Patrick Murphy,also a Democrat and the Iraq War veteran who sponsored the bill,”is about whether we’re going to continue telling people willing to die for our freedoms that they need to lie in order to do so.”