Bil Browning

BREAKING: Senate cloture vote on DADT passes

Filed By Bil Browning | December 18, 2010 11:50 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, DREAM Act, gays in the military, Senate

The United States Senate voted 63-33 favor of cloture on the bill repealing the Don't Ask Don't Tell legislature. Senators took to the floor and passionately argued back and forth - including one of the most fervent speeches by Independent Senator Joe Lieberman.

toy-soldiers-surge-forward.jpgLieberman, an orthodox Jew, especially stands out for speaking in favor of repeal and voting on the Shabbat. Orthodox Jews do not work on Shabbat except in case of emergency - which vividly illustrates his commitment to allowing gays to serve in the military.

The Senate now has to vote on whether or not to actually pass the legislation. A vote for cloture simply means that debate has been closed - although since the Senate is a slow institution, Senators now have 30 hours to debate the amendment. Activists aren't sure yet whether or not Republicans will demand the full time in an attempt to slow down the process further or if they'll allow the vote to happen immediately.

Of note: Democratic Senators Jim Webb (VA) has announced that he will support DADT repeal. Webb had previously voted for cloture, but had opposed actual repeal - including voting against the bill in the Armed Services Committee.

We'll keep you up to date as the bill proceeds. A vote could happen at any time - from now until Sunday night. Org statements after the jump.

UPDATE: The final Senate vote will happen at 3pm Eastern time today.

(Photo via John Morgan's Flickr photoset)

President Obama

Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend. By ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.

As Commander-in-Chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known. And I join the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the overwhelming majority of service members asked by the Pentagon, in knowing that we can responsibly transition to a new policy while ensuring our military strength and readiness.

I want to thank Majority Leader Reid, Senators Lieberman and Collins and the countless others who have worked so hard to get this done. It is time to close this chapter in our history. It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly. I urge the Senate to send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law.

National Stonewall Democrats Ex Dir Michael Mitchell

"Overcoming incredible obstructionism by Republicans, the Senate has finally reached cloture on Don't Ask, Don't Tell and we can now go to a simple majority vote on a law that almost 80% of Americans want to see come to an end.

"We call on the Senate to finish the job and repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell with all due haste."

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Ex Dir Aubrey Sarvis

"Gay, lesbian and bisexual service members posted around the world are standing a little taller today, but they're still very much at risk because repeal is not final. I respectfully ask Defense Secretary Robert Gates to use his authority to suspend all 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' investigations during this interim period. Until the President signs the bill, until there is certification, and until the 60-day Congressional period is over, no one should be investigated or discharged under this discriminatory law. Even with this historic vote, service members must continue to serve in silence until repeal is final. Certification and the 60-day Congressional requirement must be wrapped up no later than the first quarter of 2011. The bottom line: for now, gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members must remain cautiously closeted," said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

"We owe a great deal of thanks to many Congressional leaders who got us here today -- Patrick Murphy, Susan Davis, Speaker Pelosi, and House Majority Leader Hoyer. In the Senate this would not have happened without Chairman Levin and Senators Lieberman, Mark Udall, Gillibrand, Collins and so many others. But let me also personally thank Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. This is the defining civil right initiative of this decade and today's bill passage would not have been possible without Harry Reid's determined leadership. And finally, without commitment and a clear plan from the White House for the Pentagon's Comprehensive Review Working Group, we would not stand here today. I have no doubt the February testimony of Sec. Gates and Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, would not have happened without the President," Sarvis said.

Palm Center Director Aaron Belkin

"When President Obama signs repeal legislation, he will pave the way for the U.S. to join its NATO allies in allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly. It has long been clear that there is no evidence that lifting the ban will undermine the military, and no reason to fear the transition to inclusive policy. Research shows that moving quickly is one of the keys to a successful transition. If the President and military leadership quickly certify the end of 'don't ask, don't tell,' they will ensure an orderly transition with minimal disruption."

JD Smith: OutServe

"Today's vote by the Senate is a step forward for America. Today our military is stronger, our nation is stronger, and we are closer than ever to the day when our integrity will no longer be compromised. The vote to proceed to cloture on the repeal of the law barring honest military service by lesbian and gay soldiers is a victory for the thousands of lesbian and gay troops currently serving and a tribute to lesbian and gay veterans and those who have lost their lives defending our country.

OutServe looks forward to the day that repeal of this law is signed by our Commander in Chief and we can all begin to serve openly and honestly. We will remove the cloud that hangs over our gay and lesbian troops and live in a world where constantly worrying about losing everything we work and live for could be in jeopardy will finally end. As we await the implementation of repeal, expected to happen over the next year, OutServe is sensitive to the needs of our active duty troops and will remain a partner in making that transition smooth. There will come a moment when it will finally be completely safe to 'come out' and OutServe will be there to support the troops - gay and straight - when that day comes, hopefully soon.

There are so many people and organizations to whom OutServe is grateful as we celebrate being one step closer to equality. We won today's vote because of the leadership of President Obama and our military leaders that have advocated for repeal. Our deepest thanks go to all of the organizations and individuals who have worked tirelessly for nearly 20 years. And our deepest thanks and admiration go to the troops discharged under DADT and proud veterans who sacrificed so much to educate the public and affect change at the policy level."

Human Rights Campaign

Today the U.S. Senate voted on legislation that will allow for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT). This historic action comes on the heels of the passage of an identical bill Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives. President Obama has said that he will sign DADT repeal into law.

"Today, America lived up to its highest ideals of freedom and equality. Congress recognized that all men and women have the right to openly serve their country," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "Plenty of people had already planned the funeral for this legislation. Today, we pulled out a victory from what was almost certain defeat just a few days ago. We are grateful to President Obama, Majority Leader Reid and Sens. Lieberman, Collins and countless others for their dogged determination to repeal DADT."

Today's vote caps off two weeks of frenetic, roller-coaster activity. Last week, the Senate voted for the second time against allowing debate to begin on the National Defense Authorization Act, to which DADT repeal was attached. As a result, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced a stand-alone repeal bill in the Senate. This Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a DADT bill sponsored by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA). That bill was advanced to the Senate and voted on today.

DADT was made a law seventeen years ago and is the only U.S. law that punishes people for simply telling the truth. Since the law went into effect, over 14,000 gay and lesbian service members have been discharged from our nation's military simply because they were gay or lesbian. An estimated 66,000 gays and lesbians are currently on active-duty. Twenty-three studies over the past fifty years, including most recently a comprehensive study by the Pentagon, have concluded the same thing: that there would be no to minimal impact on force cohesion or unit readiness by allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military. Thirty-countries currently allow gays and lesbians to serve in their nation's armed forces. Over the past two years, HRC has worked steadily, including dedicating over $3 million in financial resources, to bring about today's successful outcome. Click here to see a summary of our work.

Senator Joe Lieberman, the sponsor of the Senate bill, added his perspective to this historic day. "This 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010' removes a law that discriminates against military service members based solely on their sexual orientation and also harms our national security. This historic day has been seventeen years in the making and would not have happened without the leadership of Joe Solmonese and the Human Rights Campaign."

"This is an historic moment. Like our closest allies, the United States' Armed Forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable of serving our country," said Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). "And, I agree with Defense Secretary Gates that it is critical that the issue is decided by Congress, not the courts."

Following enactment of this legislation, the repeal of DADT will happen only after certification by the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that policies have been written to implement repeal and compliance with these polices is consistent with military readiness. The Human Rights Campaign issues a critical warning to service members that repeal of DADT is not effective immediately and service members are still at risk of being discharged on the basis of their sexual orientation until certification occurs and an additional 60 days have passed. Click here to see the Pathway to Final Repeal.

"This has been a long fought battle, but this failed and discriminatory law will now be history," added Solmonese. "Congress now joins the majority of our troops and the American public in the common sense belief that on the battlefield, it does not matter whether a service member is lesbian, gay or straight - what matters is that a service member gets the job done. The President can now fulfill his promise and sign this repeal legislation into law. After signing this legislation, we call on the President and Secretary of Defense to act expeditiously to complete the steps necessary to implement final repeal. "

Lambda Legal Ex Dir Kevin Cathcart

"Today our country lived up to the values that lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers swore to defend. These members of America's armed forces have been a model of dignity and courage as they faced not only the dangers of military action, but also the unfair and discriminatory conduct of their own government. Today, the end of that era of discrimination is finally in sight."

"It is time for our country to move forward. An overwhelming majority of the American public supports letting lesbian and gay troops serve openly and with honor. The recent survey of military personnel and their families shows an overwhelming majority - 90 percent - are fine serving alongside a gay or lesbian servicemember. Our military and the security of our country will be strengthened by finally ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

"This has been a heroic political battle by LGBT advocates who refused to give up. We congratulate the many lesbian and gay servicemembers who risked or sacrificed their careers to fight for justice; the many LGBT advocacy groups and allies who fought with them; and the members of Congress who voted for justice."

Lambda Legal began its fight against discrimination in the military in 1975. Over the years Lambda Legal has been proud to represent many members of the military including Margarethe Cammermeyer, Joseph Steffan, Dusty Pruitt and Copy Berg. This year, Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief, in a challenge brought by Log Cabin Republicans, urging the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to leave in place pending appeal an injunction against enforcement of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, saying that its impact extends far beyond those in uniform, to include lesbian, gay and bisexual adults and youth, who must contend with the consequences of the discriminatory messages perpetuated by "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Servicemembers United

"This vote represents an historic step forward for this country, and it will very likely be a life-changing moment for gay and lesbian troops," said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former multi-lingual Army interrogator who was discharged under DADT. "While we still have a long road ahead, including a final passage vote, the certification process, and a yet-to-be-determined implementation period, those who defend our freedom while living in fear for their careers will finally breathe a sigh of relief tonight, and those who have fallen victim to this policy in years past will finally begin to see true closure and redemption on the horizon."

National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Ex Dir Rea Carey

"This vote today marks a critical step toward creating a path that could end in lesbian, gay and bisexual people finally being able to serve openly, honestly, and to great benefit of our country. Three-quarters of Americans say 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' should be repealed, as do top military leaders. We thank those senators who supported cloture today, and urge the full Senate to pass 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal. It's time to end this costly and discriminatory policy. Until then, the lives and careers of thousands of courageous, qualified and patriotic service members will continue to hang in the balance."

Dixon Osburn - co-founder of SLDN

Today is my birthday, and this is the best birthday present I could have asked for. The real gift, though, is to our nation, which believes in our national security and equality. This victory is a tribute to the 60,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual troops serving our nation in Iraq, Afganistan, and around the globe. It is a tribute to the one million LGBT veterans who have been willing to shed blood for out country in defense of our freedom and liberty; they now have been accorded theirs. The repeal of DA, DT and implementation of non-discrimination policies by the Pentagon will be judged among the pantheon of civil rights advances in our country. Today, no state government, local government or private business can substantiate discrimination when our military does not. Diversity is strength.

I want to thank President Obama, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen for leading. I want to also acknowledge the many advocates both individual and organizational that have helped this moment arrive. From Baron von Steuben, likely a gay man who helped organize the colonists during the American Revolution to the gay WWII vets who formed vibrant LGBT communities in NYC and San Francisco after the war, to Frank Kameny who protested the ban in the 1960s and 1970s in front of the Pentagon to Brigadier General Keith Kerr, Brigadier General Virgil Richards and Rear Admiral Alan Steinman, who came out as gay on the 10th anniversary of DA, DT, to so many more who have fought for what is right for our nation and our armed forces. We owe you a debt of gratitude. December 18th is a great day.

There is one last hurdle. I urge the Senate to immediately vote for final repeal.

Courage Campaign Chairman and Founder Rick Jacobs:

"Today is a historic moment for our military and our country as a whole. For 17 years, "Don't Ask Don't Tell" has come at great cost to taxpayers and to our collective security, and we are heartened to see that it will soon be relegated to the dustbin of history where it belongs. Our thanks go out to the many elected leaders---including Congressman Patrick Murphy, Majority Leader Reid, Senators Lieberman, Collins, Udall, Gillibrand and others, whose steadfast leadership has now paved the way for elimination of this failed policy. We are equally grateful to the thousands of veterans and military families, including Lt. Dan Choi, Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, Capt. Anthony Woods and thousands of other LGBT servicemen and women who have courageously answered our country's call to serve---and whose stories showed America why repeal is not just a matter of justice and integrity, but a national security imperative. Despite today's vote, the work is not yet complete, and thousands of LGBT servicemen and women are continuing to serve in the shadows. That's why we must remain vigiliant in ensuring the Senate moves quickly on final passage of repeal, and the Administration certifies and executes the Pentagon's implementation plan in the coming months."

Log Cabin Republicans

Log Cabin Republicans thank the bipartisan Senate majority which today voted for cloture on repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' and particularly recognizes Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) for her steadfast leadership.

"With this vote, we have crossed one of the final hurdles standing in the way of ending the failed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy," said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director. "Log Cabin Republicans are proud of our Senate allies who have voted to make our military stronger. Senator Collins, in particular, has long been the point of the spear in fighting for repeal among Republicans. She showed tremendous leadership in crossing the aisle to make this vote happen, continuing the fight when many thought hope was lost. Senators Brown, Kirk, Murkowski, Snowe and Voinovich also deserve our thanks for taking a principled stand for the integrity of all American servicemembers.

"Log Cabin Republicans urge Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, and President Obama to move with all deliberate speed to implement the measures necessary for open service so that certification can proceed and gay and lesbian patriots will be free to serve our nation as honestly as they do honorably. Until that happens, Log Cabin will continue to push for the constitutional rights of servicemembers by any means necessary."

Republican senators supporting repeal include:

  • Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA)
  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
  • Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL)
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  • Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
  • Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH)

Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA)

"The Senate vote today is one of the most important steps in the history of efforts to make our constitution fully applicable to all Americans."

"I want not just to congratulate but to thank President Obama, Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen, Senate Majority Leader Reid, Senator Levin, Senator Lieberman, Speaker Pelosi, House Majority Leader Hoyer, and Representative Patrick Murphy for their dedicated, diligent and effective work to bring us to this point."

"I do ask that for one thing: now that we are about to make the decision to let patriotic Americans volunteer to fight for our country, despite any prejudices that may exist against them, it is important that the media and others pay particular attention to the predictions that have been made by some that this will lead to the destabilization of our military. Those who have continually predicted disorder when we act against discrimination have been uniformly wrong and are too rarely held to account for that."

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

"The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is wrong for our national security and wrong for the moral foundation upon which our country was founded. For nearly two decades this corrosive policy has required service members to lie about who they are. We've lost more than 13,000 of our best and brightest to this unjust and discriminatory policy. By repealing this policy, we will increase America's strength - both militarily and morally.

"I want to thank the service men and women who have been victimized by this disastrous policy, but have bravely fought back, and every senator who stood up today and did what was right. I am confident we will proceed with repeal of this discriminatory policy in a way that ensures that the U.S. military continues to be the best fighting force in the world."


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delay or not, all that's needed now is 51 senators to vote the thing on to the president, and even if webb or tester were to fall by the wayside now, this looks like a done deal.

In February, at the Human Rights Campaign's Carolinas fundraising gala, Joe Solmonese promised donors, "This year we are going to bring down the discriminatory policy known as DADT."

The deal, that was cut in February (by HRC and others), enabled some republicans to support repeal based on the "military study," and it has worked.

All that's left is for the President and Congress to "certify." The repeal will take effect 60 days after the last of conditions a) and b) are fulfilled:

a) The Secretary of Defense receives the Comprehensive Review he requested on March 2, 2010 concerning implementing a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

b) Congress receives written certification from the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff stating that:

1) The President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the recommendations contained in the report and the report’s proposed plan of action.

2) The Department of Defense has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to implement the repeal.

3) Implementing all necessary modifications required to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” are consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.

I didn't think it would happen this year, but it has. I don't believe it will be derailed in the next 60 days.

i know we're all ready for this to be over...but it cannot happen in only 60 days.

the main reasons are related to training and regulations:

--there are a series of regulations that have to be changed for this process to be completed, and, in most cases, before you can change a regulation you need to provide a 90 day period for public comment, which means even if you get regulations completed in 60 days, you'd still need another 90 for comment, and then some number of days after that in case you do decide to make changes based on the comments.

--training materials will have to be created, distributed, and taught, and all of that requires a period of issuing policy directives and writing draft documents and getting all that approved and then distributed down through the chain of command. you'll also need a few weeks to "train the trainers" in large enough quantities to get the message out to 1.2 million troops in a fairly rapid manner.

--there will have to be a series of "all hands" meetings around the services to teach the new policy; that will likely take place as troops rotate out of combat or just before they rotate in.

to make that happen will take 6-12 months minimum, and that's if the timing is right and a troop "rotation" is taking place at the same time as the new policy is rolling out.

you should expect all of this to take 6-18 months, depending on the luck of timing and whether the certification requires all troops to be newly trained, or if the certification can occur even if some troops still remain untrained.

Isn't it amazing that we can invade a country 8,000 miles away, march through it killing tens of thousands, rip apart a society of 22 million people and land our president on an aircraft carrier to declare victory in less time than we can find a way to say to a Gay soldier "pick up that gun and fight the enemy. You are free to write your lover like all these other guys when you are not on duty".

your observation is "dead on target", if you'll pardon the pun--and the only real defense i could offer on their behalf might be to point out that from the moment they enlist, troopers are undergoing a process of preparation for jumping into aircraft, heading off somewhere, and killing people when they get there.

so when the call came, they were trained and ready, and all the bureaucracy was aligned for the effort...and had been for years.

you may recall that after the 2003 iraq invasion sexual assault became a bigger issue in the services, and they had to develop a process similar to what i'm talking about here to "work the problem" (and you may indeed question how effective the effort's been...).

here's an example of exactly the kind of orders that will have to be prepared; this example is in fact from the sexual assault program, and it describes to commanders how many personnel must be appointed, at what unit level, to be "victim advocates" within the program.

Don that defense reminds me of the time I was assaulted and crossed my legs. It was a futile effort to say the least.

it's not intended to be a justification as much as an explanation.

government is always about some process or another, and this will require a big ol' paperwork chain to be developed and approved.

to create orders just like the one i showed you a group will have to be appointed to write the orders, then drafts pass up and down, blah blah blah, and yeah, all of that will inevitably take longer than it should--but the real story today is that only administrative action remains, and this president can veto any possible legislative changes from here on out that could emerge from the 112th congress.

my opinion: the odds are good that a "dadt repeal repeal" bill gets out of the house, even if it is very unlikely to get through the senate.

in the '12 cycle, rs then run ads claiming those who voted for dadt repeal are uncaring louts who hate america and are trying to destroy its national security.

You have to wonder why the Dem leadership waited for a Lame-Duck session to get all this done.
That will be remembered as a lame decision.

Would the results in November have been any worse?
Unlikely. They may have even held a few more senate seats (like Illinois and PA) with a more energized base.

i have been trying for almost two years to make the same argument--and not just about dadt and doma.

health care, financial reform, the dream act...all of these could have been sold in a way that accrued to the political benefit of those who took progressive positions.

instead, nancy pelosi is successfully made to appear as though she were The Great Satan, the tea party is not a laughingstock everywhere that sentient beings gather, barack obama is in strategic retreat--and a huge pile of work remains undone.

Why did they wait? It was easier this way. They didn't have to fight as much; we've clearly seen that the Dem leadership has no spine.

to me, that's the crazy part: democrats don't seem to understand that the fight itself is often how you accrue political capital and reinforce your base...even though they can look all around them and see republicans doing it successfully, cycle after cycle.