BIPARTISAN MAJORITY CLEARS WAY FOR DADT REPEAL, 63 TO 33…. Seventeen years ago, a bipartisan majority Congress thought it had struck a reasonable “compromise” on gays in the military — officials would stop asking those who volunteered for service, and so long as gays and lesbians agreed to stay in the closet, the country would allow them to put their lives on the line.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” however, wasn’t much of a compromise. Courageous volunteers, trained and ready to serve, were investigated and driven out of the military. The process cost too much, undermined military readiness, and undercut our national security interests, even in a time of war.

The effort to right this wrong has been a long time coming. Just this year, the House and Senate have each voted repeatedly on efforts to repeal the existing policy. In each instance, the most recent coming just last week, Senate Republicans blocked an up-or-down vote.

This morning, that changed. Just three days after the House approved a standalone bill on DADT repeal, the Senate defeated a Republican filibuster of an identical bill. It wasn’t even close — 63 senators supported repeal, while 33 opposed it.

If my count is right, the Republicans who broke ranks and sided with Democrats were Brown (Mass.), Collins (Maine), Kirk (Ill.), Murkowski (Alaska), Snowe (Maine), and Voinovich (Ohio). In this Senate, on a hot-button issue, that’s pretty impressive. [Update: Here’s the roll call on this morning’s vote.]

It’s worth emphasizing that this morning’s vote wasn’t final passage; it was to overcome the Republican filibuster. The clock now starts on the final up-or-down vote on DADT repeal, which will probably be held tomorrow. Passage now appears to be a lock, and it’s not too early to celebrate.

I’ll have more on this once the bill clears the chamber, but this is a milestone moment for American civil rights and the drive towards equality.

When advocates of discrimination, division, and bigotry try and fail, America wins. When policymakers stand up for those who put their lives on the line for the rest of us, America wins. When a barrier that stands in the way of equality falls, America wins.

The arc of history is long, but I’m pleased to note that it’s still bending towards justice.

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.