House votes to repeal 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy on gay service members

The House of Representatives on Thursday approved a compromise to repeal the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law that bans openly gay people from serving in the military.

The vote of 234-194 in favor of an amendment sponsored by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) moved Congress closer to scrapping the Clinton-era law. Also on Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted in favor of repealing the law.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made the case for repeal of the ban just minutes before the House voted on Murphy’s amendment.

“We honor the values of our nation and we close the door on fundamental unfairness,” Pelosi said.

Twenty-six Democrats voted against the amendment while five Republicans voted for it.

The five Republicans who voted for the bill are Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Anh "Joseph" Cao (La.), Charles Djou (Hawaii), Ron Paul (Texas) and Judy Biggert (Ill.). Several vulnerable Democrats also voted for the repeal amendment, including Reps. Walt Minnick (Idaho), Jerry McNerney (Calif.) and Michael McMahon (N.Y.). Other Democrats in tight races voted against the amendment, including Rep. Earl Pomeroy (N.D.).


The chief congressional proponents of repeal reached an agreement with the Obama administration to repeal the policy only after the Pentagon finishes its review of repeal implementation and President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen certify that it can be achieved consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruitment and retention.

However, the House vote on repeal could jeopardize the passage of the 2011 defense authorization bill. Republicans have threatened to vote against the entire bill if the repeal amendment was to be included in the bill. House Democrats are taking seriously the Republican threat to vote against the underlying bill and have had to reach out to some of the most liberal House members to secure their votes on final passage. Some liberals who traditionally vote against every defense bill are firm supporters of repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), one of the co-sponsors of the repeal amendment said if the repeal legislation had not been included in the defense authorization bill, the House would have not been able to get the repeal through otherwise. He said that he would vote for the underlying defense bill because repeal is part of it and that normally he would have voted against it.

This story was updated at 11:05 p.m.