With just a signature from President Obama, a ban on openly gay servicemembers will no longer be the law of the land.
By a vote of 65 to 31 this afternoon, the Senate voted to repeal the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Republican Senators Scott Brown, Richard Burr, Susan Collins, John Ensign, Mark Kirk, Lisa Murkowski, Olympia Snowe and George Voinovich joined Democrats in the final vote to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Burr and Ensign did not vote with the Democrats earlier in the day when the GOP filibuster was broken, but signed on for the final vote.
As with almost everything in the Senate these days, the vote for something is a lot less newsworthy than the vote to consider voting for something. Thus, the real fight was over whether repeal proponents could gather the required 60 votes to break a GOP filibuster, end debate and hold a final vote. They did that — led by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) — and repeal moved ahead earlier today.
[TPM SLIDESHOW: It’s Over: Senate Repeals Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell]
What followed was some inside baseball procedural stuff that meant the normal 30 hours of debate provided to a bill was cut off in favor of today’s fast-moving action. It’s all quite anticlimactic to the drama fans, but for the proponents of DADT repeal, this afternoon’s vote is the one that really matters.
What happens next: Obama has promised to sign the bill next week, making repeal a true legal reality. Then the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Obama must work out an implementation plan and officially certify that the military is ready to allow its gay and lesbian servicemembers to come out of the closet. Sixty days after that, DADT is “officially” repealed. Such is the language of the bill the Senate passed today and the House passed earlier in the week.
But repeal could effectively be in place far earlier than that. Following the cloture vote today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called on the Pentagon to suspend all DADT discharges and investigations immediately, something gay rights advocates say Defense Secretary Robert Gates can order whenever he wants.
[TPM SLIDESHOW: TPM Looks Back At 9 Years At War In Afghanistan]
Whatever happens, the final vote in the Senate brings to an end a long fight for repeal led by gay rights advocates, progressives and, lately, President Obama. It reflects a shift in public opinion in favor the LGBT community serving in the armed forces that, advocates say, indicates a broader shift toward gay rights in America.
Check out this video of Democrats and gay rights activists speaking after breaking the Republican filibuster earlier today: