AT THE INTERSECTION OF BIGOTRY AND COWARDICE…. The dust has not yet settled, and the reasons behind the Senate’s failure to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this afternoon are still coming into focus. But we know a few things with some certainty.

The first is that a 40-member Senate minority — 39 Republicans and one Democrat — blew off the appeals of the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs about an issue of great importance to the U.S. military. A clear majority of Americans support repeal; a clear majority of the men and women in uniform are on board with repeal; and clear majorities of the House and Senate have voted to support repeal.

Republicans still blocked it. This isn’t just a situation in which they just chose to vote against a proposal — they feel so strongly about this, they wouldn’t even let the Senate vote up or down on the defense authorization bill, legislation that funds the military during two wars, and includes a provision to give U.S. troops a raise.

And what was driving such intense opposition? For senators like John McCain (R-Ariz.) and most of his GOP allies, it appears to be matter of not liking gay people.

For senators like Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), it’s about putting procedure above people. They’d like to do the right thing, but it’s more important to get a certain kind of legislative debate.

These Republicans’ message to gay servicemen and women, who volunteer to put their lives on the line to protect the rest of us, in effect, is, “We’d like to protect you from pointless discrimination, but Senate procedure matters more.”

For what it’s worth, soon after the vote failed — which is to say, soon after a 57-member majority featuring Democratic, Republican, and Independent votes was deemed insufficient — Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced they’d introduce a free-standing bill that would repeal DADT. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would co-sponsor the measure.

The plan, at least for now, is to bring it to bypass the committee process and try to bring this to the floor in the lame-duck session. Of course, potential GOP supporters may get into yet another fight over amendments and floor time, and given the calendar, there may not be time to squeeze this bill into the schedule.

Postscript: For those inclined to blame President Obama for Senate Republicans defeating repeal today, spare me. The White House clearly pushed for repeal, and did everything possible to use the Pentagon’s report last week to apply the necessary pressure to deliver. By most counts, there really are 60 votes to make repeal a reality, and that’s the case because President Obama has helped take the lead on the issue. If you’re looking to blame someone, I’d start with 40 senators who filibustered today.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.