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Vote Fails to Break Filibuster on Bill That Would Repeal DADT

Senate Republicans blocked a cloture vote of a defense spending bill that includes an amendment that would repeal the military's so-called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy today, preventing the bill from going to the Senate floor for debate. According to CNN, the cloture vote failed on a 56 to 43 vote. Sixty votes are necessary to break the filibuster of the bill, which is being led by the Republicans, all of whom voted against moving to debate. Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, both Democrats from Arkansas, voted with the Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) switched his vote for tactical reasons so that he is able to bring up the bill again at a later time. The House has already approved the bill.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis responded to the vote in a press release, "Today's Senate vote was a frustrating blow to repeal this horrible law. We lost because of the political maneuvering dictated by the mid-term elections. Let's be clear: Opponents to repealing DADT did not have the votes to strike those provisions from the bill. Instead, they had the votes for delay. Time is the enemy here. We now have no choice but to look to the lame duck session where we'll have a slim shot. The Senate absolutely must schedule a vote in December when cooler heads and common sense are more likely to prevail once midterm elections are behind us."

Instituted by former President Bill Clinton in 1993, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" prohibits the military from inquiring about a service member's sexual orientation, but also calls for the discharge of anyone who acknowledges being gay. The policy has led to the expulsion of about 13,500 troops. The amendment to the defense spending bill would repeal DADT after a military review on the policy is completed in December. The Pentagon is currently undertaking a survey of approximately 400,000 service members to examine the potential impact of the repeal. Results of the survey will be presented to President Obama in December, as part of the final report and implementation plan.

In September, US District Court Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that DADT is unconstitutional on the basis that it violates both the first and fifth amendment rights of lesbian and gay service members. The ruling was in a case filed by the Log Cabin Republicans against the federal government in 2004. Judge Phillips is expected to issue an injunction within the next few weeks that would bar the federal government from enforcing DADT, but government lawyers have said Phillips lacks authority to issue such an injunction.

Media Resources: CNN 9/21/10; Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Press Release 9/21/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 9/10/10, 9/20/10

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