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In historic vote, Senate moves to end 'don't ask, don't tell'

Eight Republicans joined Democrats to vote for an end to the 1993 'don't ask, don't tell' law banning gay troops from serving openly. Proponents compare it to ending racial segregation in the military.

By Staff writer / December 18, 2010

Veterans and supporters rallied outside the JFK Federal Building in Boston Wednesday in support of repealing the 'don't ask, don't tell' ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. On Saturday, the Senate voted to end the ban.

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The Senate Saturday voted to end a longstanding ban on gay troops serving openly in the US armed services – a move Democrats compare to President Truman’s ending the ban on racial segregation in the military in 1948.

“It is time to close this chapter in our history,” said President Obama in a statement. “It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly.”

Six Republicans – Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and George Voinovich of Ohio – broke with their party to give Democrats the votes needed to break a GOP filibuster. The measure subsequently passed, 65 to 31. Sens. John Ensign (R) of Nevada and Richard Burr (R) of North Carolina also joined Democrats on the final vote.

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'Don't ask, don't tell': Can military handle a repeal of gay ban?

The House passed an identical repeal on Wednesday, 250-175, sending the bill to the White House. At least 60 days before the law takes effect, both the President and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have to certify that ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy won’t adversely affect military readiness or morale.

That issue was a major theme in today’s Senate debate. The Senate Armed Services Committee held two days of hearings on the final report of a Pentagon working group that reviewed the issue.

Its conclusion was that a repeal of the ban “would present a low risk to the military’s effectiveness even during a time of war,” said Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan, who chairs the panel.

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