An amendment to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell passed the House of Representatives Thursday night with a vote of 234 to 194. 5 Republicans voted in favor of the Amendment. 229 Democratic Representatives voted in favor.
The Senate Armed Services Committee also voted in favor of the Amendment. The Service Members Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which describes itself "as a national, non-profit legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," released the following statement:
"Chairman Carl Levin, Senator Joe Lieberman, and Rep. Patrick Murphy showed remarkable courage and steadfastness in the face of unprecedented and inappropriate last minute lobbying by the Pentagon service chiefs who seemed to have forgotten that they are not the policy makers here. That role in our government rightly belongs to Congress and it was properly exercised today in the dismantling of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'
SLDN firmly reminded gay and lesbian service members not to come out yet:
It is important for all gay and lesbian, active-duty service members, including the reserves and the national guard, to know they're at risk. They must continue to serve in silence under the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law that remains on the books. Congress and the Pentagon need to stay on track to get repeal finalized, hopefully no later than first quarter 2011. The bottom line: gay and lesbian service members remain at risk for discharge and cannot serve openly. [emphasis added]
While Thursday's vote is historic and should be celebrated, the path forward is murky. A repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell will not go into effect until "the Pentagon Working Group completes its report and the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the President certifies repeal," the statement said.
In addition to the certification process, a 60 day waiting period was introduced by Senator Byrd. The waiting period serves no legitimate purpose, other than to delay the actual implementation of the repeal 60 days after the certification has completed. However, the compromise was necessary to get Senator Byrd's support for the repeal.
So when will gay and lesbian service members actually be able to live and serve openly without risking their careers? With all the hurdles, it could be as late as April 2011 for the entire process to complete.
Lt. Dan Choi, a gay service member and outspoken advocate for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" anticipated today's vote, and pledged Wednesday night via Twitter to begin a fast to hurry the process along. He tweeted:
The time has come to fast for Dignity and Equality. Demand #DADT firings, non-discrimination, end the study.
A group of fasters and supporters will commence immediately following congress mark-ups.
President Obama issued a finessed statement that both celebrated the historic vote, while paying homage to the so-called "working group," that some think was designed to prevent Thursday's vote from happening this year.
I have long advocated that we repeal 'Don't Ask Don't Tell', and I am pleased that both the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee took important bipartisan steps toward repeal tonight. Key to successful repeal will be the ongoing Defense Department review, and as such I am grateful that the amendments offered by Representative Patrick Murphy and Senators Joseph Lieberman and Carl Levin that passed today will ensure that the Department of Defense can complete that comprehensive review that will allow our military and their families the opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process. 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. 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.
Hopefully after the military families get done informing their leaders about their feelings about gay and lesbian soldiers, they will have the same opportunity to express their feelings about their 5th or perhaps 6th tour of duty in Iraq -- a war that would have ended May 20, 2010 if President Obama kept his campaign promise to end the war within 16 months of taking office.
In March, the President revised his commitment and said, "Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end."
My hope is that no closeted gay or lesbian soldier dies in Iraq or Afghanistan while the overly lengthy "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal process concludes. What a shameful dishonor to their sacrifice that would be.
Yet, even while I was writing the last sentence of this post, an AP alert pushed to my phone announcing the 1000th death in Afghanistan. We will never know how many of them were forced to live a lie to die for their country.