Saturday marked a civil rights milestone as the Senate voted, 65-31, to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) military policy set in place some seventeen years ago.
Repeal of the DADT policy will mean that gays will be openly accepted by the armed forces and can acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being dishonorably discharged from the military.
According to The Associated Press, “more than 13,500 service members have been dismissed under the 1993 law” and some estimate that it has cost the government over $1.3 billion.
During his campaign, President Obama made repealing the controversial policy one of his hallmark campaign promises. Although many in the gay community had been frustrated with the President and his perceived lack of action to get rid of the bill, many recognized that this milestone would not have been reached without the President’s unwavering support.
After the votes were tallied, MSNBC political host Rachel Maddow declared the repeal of DADT as a win for President Obama. “Politically though, the thing not to lose touch with here — this is the president’s victory. He took a lot of criticism, a lot of abuse, a lot of skepticism from his otherwise most loyal supporters, but this is an issue on which the president did not waver. He continued to insist this was possible, that it would get done.”
Although it may seem that having openly gay people serving in the military is a revolutionary concept, the United States is behind the curve. Many countries, including several of our allies, welcome openly gay members. The UK, France, Russia, Israel, Canada, and China are just a few of the countries that allow openly gay individuals to serve in the military.
Despite the jubilation over the repeal of the bill and the military’s support of allowing openly gay soldiers, Senator John McCain still spoke ill of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “They will do what is asked of them,” McCain said of service members. “But don’t think there won’t be a great cost.”
The Associated Press reports that Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, vowed to begin the certification process of the new law, but policy changes will be gradual, orderly, and won’t happen until all of the military service chiefs and combatant commanders are consulted.
“Successful implementation will depend upon strong leadership, a clear message and proactive education throughout the force,” he said.
President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law sometime this week, however the effects of the bill probably will take several months to roll out.