Senate Armed Services panel approves 'Don't ask, don't tell' repeal

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday voted to repeal the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law that bans openly gay people from serving in the military.

The panel voted 16-12 to repeal the law. Sen. Jim Webb (Va.) was the only Democrat to vote against the measure, while Sen. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSwing-state Republicans play up efforts for gun control laws Reid knocks GOP on gun 'terror loophole' after attacks GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (Maine) was the only Republican to vote for it.

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Fifteen votes were needed to include the measure in the 2011 defense authorization bill. 

“Today’s action by the Senate Armed Services Committee is an important step to end this discriminatory policy,” Levin said. “I believe that allowing gay and lesbian service members to serve openly will open the ranks to more patriotic men and women who wish to serve their country.”

Under the provision, the repeal will not be implemented until the Pentagon finishes its review of how it would impact the military. President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaGreen Party nominee escorted off debate premises Obama defends work on tribal issues Charlotte requires race discussion Hillary, Democrats refuse to have MORE, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen must first certify it can be achieved consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruitment and retention.

“With the effective leadership of Chairman Levin, my colleagues adopted a compromise amendment which carefully accommodates the recommendations of the Pentagon working group and is consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention,” Lieberman said.

The language reflects a deal worked out between key members of Congress and the White House.

To make the vote palatable to Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Sen. Carl LevinCarl LevinThe Fed and a return to banking simplicity What Our presidential candidates can learn from Elmo Zumwalt Will there be a 50-50 Senate next year? MORE (D-Mich.), the panel's chairman, and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) also agreed to allow Congress to have 60 days to review the implementation policy once certified.

Byrd and Collins voted in favor of repeal along with Democratic Sens. Jack ReedJack ReedOvernight Finance: McConnell offers 'clean' funding bill | Dems pan proposal | Flint aid, internet measure not included | More heat for Wells Fargo | New concerns on investor visas Senate Dems call for investigation into Wells Fargo's wage practices Week ahead: Negotiators near deal on defense bill MORE (R.I.), Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Bill NelsonBill NelsonShutdown risk grows over Flint Takata says it failed to report airbag rupture in 2003 This week: Shutdown deadline looms over Congress MORE (Fla.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Evan Bayh (Ind.), Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillFacebook steps up fight against fake news The Trail 2016: Off the sick bed McCaskill: Trump and Dr. Oz a 'marriage made in heaven' MORE (Mo.), Mark UdallMark UdallColorado GOP Senate race to unseat Dem incumbent is wide open Energy issues roil race for Senate Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium MORE (Colo.), Kay HaganKay HaganPhoto finish predicted for Trump, Clinton in North Carolina Are Senate Republicans facing an election wipeout? Clinton's lead in NC elevates Senate race MORE (N.C.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Roland Burris (Ill.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Ted Kaufman (Del.).

At press time, the House had yet to vote on a mirror amendment sponsored by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.). The House is debating the 2011 defense authorization bill.

Gay rights activists who fought to see repeal this year on Thursday hailed the Senate panel’s action, but warned that gay service members can still be discharged despite the legislation that was approved.

“The Senate Armed Services Committee passed a historic roadmap to allowing open military service, but it doesn’t end the discharges,” said Aubrey Sarvis, the executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), an organization solely focused on repeal.

“It is important for all gay and lesbian, active-duty service members, including the reserves and the National Guard, to know they’re at risk. They must continue to serve in silence under the ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ law that remains on the books. Congress and the Pentagon need to stay on track to get repeal finalized, hopefully no later than first quarter 2011,” Sarvis added.