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Senate votes to repeal 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'

The US Senate [official website] voted 65-31 [roll call vote] Saturday 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 Don't Ask, Don't Repeal Act of 2010 [HR 2965 materials), a piece of stand-alone legislation, was passed [JURIST report] on Wednesday by the US House of Representatives [official website]. Last week, the Senate fell three votes short [JURIST report] of the 60 votes necessary to approve a cloture motion on a defense spending bill [S 3454 materials] that whould have included a provision for repeal. The legislation will now go to President Obama, who is expected to sign it early next week. The president, secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must then certify [WSJ report] that the necessary policies and procedures are in place within the military. After receiving certification, the full repeal must take effect within 60 days.

The Obama administration has been pushing Congress to repeal DADT as courts have also been weighing in on the issue. Earlier this month, 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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