(Photo: AP Images / Manuel Balce Ceneta)
The U.S. House voted Thursday to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.
In a 234 to 194 vote, members of the House of Representative supported the end of the 1993 policy, but agreed to wait until the Pentagon study is completed to put any changes into effect. The House vote came just hours after the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 16 to 12 to also repeal the policy.
Conservative public policy groups rebuked lawmakers for approving the amendment to the Defense Authorization bill. They contend that Democratic leaders and lawmakers are using the U.S. military to advance a “radical agenda.”
"Tonight Speaker Pelosi and the House Majority ignored the pleas of the military, including all four service heads – those who lead the men and women who actually understand what it means to selflessly serve,” said Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council and a Marine veteran, in a statement.
“Speaker Pelosi also denied the request of the majority of military associations who asked that she show respect for our military commanders by holding off debate until the review process is completed,” he said.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff have sent letters to Congress asking lawmakers to postpone efforts to repeal the DADT rule until after the Pentagon finishes its study on how a repeal would affect the military. The report is due on Dec. 1.
But when Congress indicated it would move forward on repealing the policy without support from the White House and military, a compromise deal was quickly put together this week. The deal is Congress can move ahead with its effort to repeal the DADT policy if the Pentagon can continue its review and no changes to military policy occurs until after the report is released.
“My concern,” said Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of Naval Operations, in a letter to Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) this week, according to CitizenLink, “is that legislative changes at this point, regardless of the precise language used, may cause confusion on the status of the law in the Fleet and disrupt the review process itself by leading sailors to question whether their input matters.”
Meanwhile, Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group, expressed concern about the impact of repealing the DADT policy will have on religious freedom in the military. It sent copies to Congress of a letter to President Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates signed by 31 retired military chaplains. The letter by the chaplains warned that repealing DADT will “endanger religious liberty for chaplains and service members.”
“The small group of activists who are pushing to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ are conveniently ignoring the dramatic legal impact of the legislation upon the religious liberties of thousands of chaplains and service members,” said ADF litigation counsel Daniel Blomberg. “The nature of the proposed repeal is an alarming signal that religious liberty, free speech, and even national security have taken a back seat to the homosexual legal agenda.”
Repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” is a key promise President Obama made to his gay supporters. Obama said in his State of the Union address that he wanted to repeal DADT this year. Ending DADT is also the top legislative priority for gay rights groups.
But despite the House approving the repeal, the amendment faces tough opposition in the Senate where a filibuster is expected.