A breakthrough day for DADT repeal

A BREAKTHROUGH DAY FOR DADT REPEAL…. About seven months ago, a strategy was put in place to scrap the existing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Dems would add repeal to the defense appropriations bill, get the White House’s blessing, and wrap the whole thing up by the early summer.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said at the time, “‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was always going to be part of the military authorization.” President Obama, Frank added, was “totally committed to this and has been from the beginning.”

As it turns out, everything appears to be going according to plan.

The House voted Thursday to let the Defense Department repeal the ban on gay and bisexual people from serving openly in the military, a major step toward dismantling the 1993 law widely known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The provision would allow military commanders to repeal the ban. The repeal would permit gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military for the first time.

It was adopted as an amendment to the annual Pentagon policy bill, which the House is expected to vote on Friday. The repeal would be allowed 60 days after a Pentagon report is completed on the ramifications of allowing openly gay service members, and military leaders certify that it would not be disruptive. The report is due by Dec. 1.

A few hours before the House vote, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a similar measure, adding a repeal provision to the Pentagon spending bill that’s headed to the Senate floor.

In the House, the final vote was 234 to 194. It was not a straight party-line vote, but it was close — 26 Blue Dogs voted with the Republicans to protect the status quo, while five Republicans voted with Dems to support repeal. In the Senate Armed Services Committee, the vote was 16 to 12, with Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) voting with Republicans, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) siding with the Democrats.

After the votes, the White House issued a statement from the president applauding the votes. “Our military is made up of the best and bravest men and women in our nation, and my greatest honor is leading them as Commander-in-Chief,” Obama said. “This legislation will help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity.”

As for what’s next, the House still needs to approve the larger spending bill, and will probably vote on it today. In the Senate, the appropriations measure will almost certainly face a Republican filibuster, though it’s unclear if the GOP can sustain obstructionism against a bill that funds U.S. troops during two wars.

Regardless, we’re quickly approaching a new day — one in which all American patriots will be able to volunteer to serve their country and wear the uniform proudly. It’s change I can believe in.