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Senate Republicans block ëDon’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate failed to advance a defense bill that includes the repeal of the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy used by the military. The bill halted at a vote of 56-43, which was four votes short of the 60 necessary in order to break the Republican-driven filibuster.

The policy, which is a congressionally enacted ban preventing gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military, was enacted in 1993 while discussing the role of homosexuals in the armed forces. The policy asserts that military personnel cannot question the sexual orientation of its officers, but allows gays and lesbians to serve as long as they don’t make statements about their sexual orientation and refrain from openly homosexual acts.

On Sept. 21, the bill was shot down in the Senate, with two Democratic Senators from Arkansas, Blanche L. Lincoln and Mark Pryor siding with the opposition. The bill would provide a $726 billion appropriation that would give the president the authority to repeal the policy.

The striking down of the bill comes as a large blow to President Obama, who in his 2008 presidential campaign promised to repeal the policy that has been a controversial issue since its adoption. According to CNN.com, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement that the White House is “disappointed.” He added that they will keep trying,† saying, “The president obviously continues to urge Congress to act, and is working as well with the Pentagon to see this come to fruition.”

Not only does the loss of the bill hit hard with Democrats, but also has stunned and disappointed gay activists around the country. The issue has remained predominantly on the backburner since Obama’s inauguration and wasn’t brought into the spotlight until February of 2010 when Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Mike Mullen asked Congress to allow gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military. Because the idea was military backed, the eventual demise of the bill seemed imminent at some point. Now, however, gay rights activists are not only concerned about the future of DADT, but are becoming skeptical of the Obama administration, to which they makeup a key constituency. They worry that Congress post-midterm elections will be less likely to repeal the ban.

One of the key players in this bill is Nevada Senator Harry Reid, a Democrat who joined the opposition in a play to bring up the policy issue later on. Reid issued a statement after the bill lost that admonished Republicans, claiming that not repealing the ban could prevent soldiers from doing their job effectively. According to TalkRadioNews.com,† the statement said “Republicans are again playing politics with our national security,” and continued with, “they blocked the Senate from debating a bill that would give our troops the resources they need to keep America safe Ö stopping not only funding for combat vehicles and bulletproof vests or measures to improve our military’s readiness.” In the same statement provided by TalkNewsRadio.com, Reid stated that failure to bring the bill up for discussion would delay a pay increase for servicemen.

Moderate Republicans, specifically the ones from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, ended up joining the GOP-fueled filibuster even though they don’t agree with the policy because they did not agree with Reid’s decision to allow Democrats and Republicans to debate and discuss the bill.

The controversial policy will continue to draw media attention, especially during the remainder of President Obama’s term. With the defeat of both the Democrats and the gay community, supporters of the bill are wondering what step to take next.

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