"Don’t ask, don’t tell" proponents were handed another victory Thursday as the 17-year old ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military was narrowly spared in a Senate vote.
Democrats were not able to rally together the 60 votes it needed to prevent against a filibuster and approve the Defense Appropriations bill, containing the provision ending DADT, for debate and an eventual vote on the Senate floor.
Prior to the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid chided Republicans for holding up efforts to vote the defense measure to the floor.
“It’s quite clear that they’re trying to run out the clock,” Reid said of GOP opponents before calling for the vote.
When the vote did get to the floor, Democrats were three short.
Democrats did manage to sway Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins to vote in favor of the repeal. GOP Sens. Scott Brown and Lisa Murkowski were reportedly leading towards “aye” votes, but voted against the bill in the final count.
The measure is a victory for DADT supports who believe a repeal of the 1993 legislation would hurt the military’s three Rs – recruitment, readiness and retention.
In an earlier press conference, the Family Research Council president Tony Perkins denounced lame duck efforts to vote on the repeal.
“This should not be done in a lame duck Congress,” he stressed.
Perkins instead encouraged lawmakers to delay the vote so they could make an informed decision. Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) agreed with Perkins’ remarks and said Congress has not even had a chance to look at the documents yet.
The Department of Defense released a report on Nov. 30 on the effects of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The report summarized surveys that questioned 115,052 service members from the U.S. Marines, Army, Navy, Air force, Army Reserves and Coast Guard the military.
In a Dec. 3 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, military chiefs echoed conservatives in asking that a repeal be delayed. Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz said the implementation of any congressional repeal of the policy should be delayed until 2012 to allow time for education and training.
Meanwhile, chaplains have asked President Obama to keep the policy intact or at the very least to include comprehensive religious liberty protections in any policy change.
“We believe that normalizing homosexual conduct in the armed forces will pose a significant threat to chaplains’ and Service members’ religious liberty,” a group of 66 retired chaplains said in a September letter.
They worry that a repeal will hamper them from expressing their faith. Daniel Blomberg, an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, told NPR that chaplains could be charged with discrimination based on sexual orientation if they expressed that homosexual behavior is not in accordance with God’s will.
"And that could be career-ending for a chaplain," he told the radio program.
With the days remaining in the lame duck session lessening and a fleet of hard-line Republicans coming to Congress in the new year, it seems unlikely that Democrats will be able to pass the repeal in the near future.