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Senate blocks vote to repeal 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'

The US Senate [official website] failed Thursday to advance a vote on a bill to repeal the military's controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive], which prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the armed forces. The Senate fell three votes short [roll call vote] of the 60 votes necessary to approve a cloture motion on a defense spending bill [S 3454 materials] that would include a provision for repeal. After the vote, Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) [official websites] said they plan to introduce a separate piece of legislation [press release] to repeal the ban, but it appears unlikely that such a bill could pass before the end of the current legislative session. President Barack Obama [official website] expressed disappointment with the vote and called on Congress to continue to work toward repealing the ban. The Senate previously failed [JURIST report] to invoke cloture to repeal DADT in September.

The Obama administration has been pushing Congress to repeal DADT as courts have also been weighing in on the issue. Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) [official website] heard conflicting testimony [JURIST report] from top military leaders on the services' readiness to repeal DADT. The hearing was held to review a Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] report [text, PDF; JURIST report], released earlier that week, which concluded that repealing DADT would only minimally effect military effectiveness, soldier retention and family readiness. Last month, US Air Force Major Margaret Witt, who was discharged under DADT, became the first openly gay person to serve in the US military after the Obama administration did not pursue a stay of a previous federal court decision ordering her reinstatement [JURIST reports]. Also in November, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called on the 112th Congress to repeal DADT [JURIST report]. Gates issued a memorandum in October limiting the authority to discharge openly gay service members [JURIST report] to five senior DOD officials. The policy was struck down by a federal court in September, but an appeals court has since stayed that ruling [JURIST reports]. Since the enactment of DADT in 1993, approximately 13,000 servicemen and women have been discharged from the armed forces as a result of the policy.

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