What’s Brewing: Anti-gay bill clears Montana House; Maryland Senate takes up marriage

Nathan Bowen

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Montana House approved a bill that would nullify local LGBT discrimination protections. “Missoula’s Democratic legislators were infuriated by the passage of House Bill 516, by Rep. Kristin Hansen, R-Havre. Her bill passed 60-39 and faces a final House vote before heading to the Senate. Sixty Republicans voted for it. All 32 Democrats voted opposed it, joined by seven Republicans. One Republican was absent.”

2. The president of a GLBT center in Enid, Okla., is accused of sexually molesting a 15-year-old. “According to EnidGLBT.org, Nathan Bowen is President of the Enid GLBT Community Center located in the 1300 block of S. Van Buren Street. According to the police report, Bowen and the victim began texting each other sexual messages after the victim met Bowen on Friday. The molestation incident happened on Sunday after Bowen allegedly picked up the minor at a park and took him to a home in the area.”

3. The Maryland Senate will begin debate on a marriage equality bill today: “Debate on the contentious measure to allow same-sex couples to marry is expected to run into Wednesday evening and carry over to Thursday. Miller has told senators to clear their weekend schedules in case an expected filibuster extends into Saturday. The bill, which would repeal Maryland’s definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, is widely expected to clear the Senate — but there are no guarantees. Twenty-four senators have declared their support for the measure, the minimum needed for final passage.”

—  John Wright

Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t ever forget the anti-gay bigots who voted against repealing DADT

The impending end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” doesn’t change the fact that Texas’ two anti-gay senators, Republicans John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, voted against repealing the policy. The beauty of the standalone bill to repeal DADT, aside from the fact it had enough votes, was that it forced lawmakers to take a position on the policy itself. On Saturday, Cornyn, Hutchison and 29 others went on record as supporting injustice, dishonesty and discrimination.

It’s truly sad that both our senators would vote to harm our national security during a time of war by continuing to discharge valuable servicemembers for no good reason. Indeed, those who voted against DADT repeal will go down in history as being on the wrong side of it, and we should never, ever forget that.

Which is apparently why GetEQUAL Texas is moving forward with plans for protests/celebrations outside Hutchison’s offices around Texas on Tuesday. From Facebook:

GetEQUAL Texas will go forward with their planned protest of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison scheduled for Tuesday, December 22 at noon in front of the Senator’s offices in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. The group is celebrating Saturday’s repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, but recognizes the importance of highlighting the oppressive vote of Ms. Hutchison on a measure which had the support of over 70% of Americans in several major polls.

Please join GetEQUAL Texas and other community members and allies to celebrate this victory by telling Kay Bailey Hutchison that “Enough is Enough.”

“We will no longer sit by and allow votes like that of Sen. Hutchison on the repeal measure to go unnoticed. Although the repeal measure passed the Senate with a filibuster proof majority, Senator Hutchison attempted to silence those willing to defend the rights and freedoms of the United States with their lives by voting against the repeal. We will not be silenced. The freedom of speech is guaranteed to all Americans, not just those who the Senator prefers.” stated Michael Diviesti an Army veteran and state coordinator for GetEQUAL Texas.

Both Texas Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn voted against repeal, which passed with a filibuster proof majority in the Senate.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Senate advances DADT repeal; final vote set for 2 p.m. Dallas time

In a historic vote that spells an eventual end for the 17-year-old policy, the Senate advanced a standalone bill to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” on Saturday.

Shortly before 11 a.m. Dallas time, the Senate voted 63-33 to cut off debate on the DADT repeal bill and move to a final vote, which was scheduled for 2 p.m. Dallas time today.

Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison both voted against advancing DADT repeal this morning. Six Republicans joined 45 Democrats and two Indpendents in voting to advance the measure. The six Republicans were Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Mark Kirk of Illinois and George Voinovich of Ohio.

“This vote represents an historic step forward for this country, and it will very likely be a life-changing moment for gay and lesbian troops,” said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United and a former multi-lingual Army interrogator who was discharged under DADT. “While we still have a long road ahead, including a final passage vote, the certification process, and a yet-to-be-determined implementation period, those who defend our freedom while living in fear for their careers will finally breathe a sigh of relief tonight, and those who have fallen victim to this policy in years past will finally begin to see true closure and redemption on the horizon.”

More than 13,500 servicemembers have been discharged since DADT became law in 1993. An end to the policy would mean that for the first time in this history of the U.S., gays, lesbians and bisexuals can serve openly in the military.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Senate blocks DADT repeal, but Collins, Lieberman to introduce stand-alone bill

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS AND VIDEO FROM THURSDAY NIGHT’S DADT RALLY ON CEDAR SPRINGS

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor

In a major blow to repeal efforts, Senate Republicans on Thursday afternoon blocked the Defense spending bill that includes an amendment that would end “don’t ask don’t tell.”

However, advocacy groups insisted that DADT repeal isn’t dead in the lame duck session despite the setback. A short time after the vote, senators who support DADT repeal said they plan to introduce a stand-alone measure to end the 17-year-old ban on open service.

The Senate voted 57-40 on a motion to proceed with the Defense bill, falling three votes short of the necessary 60, after negotiations apparently broke down between Majority Leader Harry Reid and key Republicans. Reid and other pro-repeal Democrats needed 60 votes to end a filibuster, but they were unable to reach a deal with Republicans concerning the rules for debate and amendments.

Reid blamed Republican opponents of repeal for stalling on the Defense bill in an effort to “run out the clock” on DADT repeal. He said every time he met their demands, they came back with something different.

“They want to block a vote on this issue [DADT repeal] at all costs even if it means we do not pass a Defense Authorization bill for the first time in 48 years, and even if it means our troops don’t get the funding and the protections they need,” Reid said. “In my effort to get this done, I don’t know how I could have been more reasonable. … It’s our troops that will pay the price for our inability to overcome partisan political posturing.”

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who supports a repeal of DADT but had said she would only vote to move forward on the Defense bill after the Senate addresses tax cuts, pleaded with Reid not to call for a cloture vote on the Defense bill Thursday.

“I am perplexed and frustrated that this important bill is going to become a victim of politics,” Collins said during an exchange with Reid on the floor prior to the vote. “We should be able to do better, and Sen. [Joe] Lieberman and I have been bargaining in good faith with the majority leader. … I just want to say that I’m perplexed as to what has happened and why we’re not going forward in a constructive way that would lead to success.”

Despite her statement, Collins was the lone Republican to favor of Reid’s motion, but only after it was clear it didn’t have enough votes to pass. Other Republicans who’ve said they support DADT repeal, Scott Brown of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted against Reid’s motion for cloture on the bill.

Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison also voted against the motion, but Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was absent for the vote. Cornyn has said he opposes DADT repeal.

Shortly after the vote, Collins and Lieberman announced they plan to introduce a stand-alone bill to repeal DADT, but prospects for the bill are unclear given that even if it passes the Senate, it will have to go to the House for approval, and time is running short.

“We support Sen. Lieberman’s plan to move a stand-alone bill,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a leading repeal advocacy group. “We also believe another viable option is the Continuing Resolution (CR) coming over from the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate and the president must remain in session and in Washington to find another path for repeal to get done in the lame-duck.”

President Barack Obama issued a statement saying he was “extremely disappointed” in the Senate vote.

“Despite having the bipartisan support of a clear majority of Senators, a minority of Senators are standing in the way of the funding upon which our troops, veterans and military families depend,” Obama said. “This annual bill has been enacted each of the past 48 years, and our armed forces deserve nothing less this year.

“A minority of Senators were willing to block this important legislation largely because they oppose the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” the president said. “As Commander in Chief, I have pledged to repeal this discriminatory law, a step supported by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and informed by a comprehensive study that shows overwhelming majorities of our armed forces are prepared to serve with Americans who are openly gay or lesbian. A great majority of the American people agree. This law weakens our national security, diminishes our military readiness, and violates fundamental American principles of fairness, integrity and equality.

“I want to thank Majority Leader Reid, Armed Services Committee Chairman Levin, and Senators Lieberman and Collins for all the work they have done on this bill,” Obama added. “While today’s vote was disappointing, it must not be the end of our efforts. I urge the Senate to revisit these important issues during the lame duck session.”

Earlier, after the vote, the Human Rights Campaign called on Obama to immediately halt discharges under DADT and stop defending the policy in court.

“The Senate’s apparent refusal to act on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal makes presidential action imperative in order for him to fulfill his state of the union promise,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said. “The only measure of success is an end to the discharges and anything less is unacceptable.

“In this time of war, we cannot sustain a policy that has already deprived our military of thousands of service members, many with critical skills in fighting terrorism,” said Solmonese. “Every day that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is in force, Americans are losing out on the best and brightest service members defending our country. If Congress won’t act, it’s up to the President to clean up the mess they made when they enacted this discriminatory and unconstitutional law nearly two decades ago.”

ROLL CALL ON MOTION TO PROCEED WITH DEFENSE SPENDING BILL:

YEAs —57

Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Collins (R-ME)
Conrad (D-ND)
Coons (D-DE)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Franken (D-MN)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Hagan (D-NC)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kerry (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Specter (D-PA)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Warner (D-VA)
Webb (D-VA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)

NAYs —40

Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brown (R-MA)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kirk (R-IL)
Kyl (R-AZ)
LeMieux (R-FL)
Lugar (R-IN)
Manchin (D-WV)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Snowe (R-ME)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Wicker (R-MS)

Not Voting – 3

Brownback (R-KS)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Lincoln (D-AR)

—  John Wright

UPDATED: DADT vote could come Thursday

UPDATE: We’ve posted a full story on today’s vote here.

The Defense Authorization Act containing a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” is one of three bills scheduled for a cloture vote in the Senate beginning at 11 a.m. Eastern time, or 10 a.m. Dallas time, on Thursday, according to a Senate calendar released Wednesday night. The first of the three bills scheduled for a cloture vote is the DREAM Act, which passed the House on Wednesday but is not believed to have enough votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. As for the Defense bill with DADT repeal attached, all eyes will be on Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, whose misgivings prompted Majority Leader Harry Reid to postpone a planned vote Wednesday evening. Read Collins’ statement from last night here. Below are the Senate orders for today via AmericaBlog:

∙The Senate will convene at 9:30am and proceed to consideration of the motion to proceed to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2010 (S.3992), with ten minutes reserved for Senator Durbin, and the remaining time until 11:00am equally divided and controlled between the two Leaders, or their designees.

∙At 11:00am, the Senate will proceed to a series of up to three roll call votes on the following:

o The motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2010 (S.3992).

o The motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (H.R.847).

o Reconsideration of the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (S.3454).

UPDATE: As of 11:15 a.m. Dallas time, the Defense bill was on hold indefinitely as negotiations between Reid and Collins continued. However, the tax bill was expected to arrive on the Senate floor within an hour or so. The tax bill could delay consideration of the Defense bill, but it would also address one of Collins’ main concerns — that the tax bill be dealt with first.

—  John Wright

Statement from Sen. Collins on DADT repeal

Sen. Susan Collins

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, released the below statement Wednesday night on the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid postponed a vote earlier in the day on the Defense spending bill containing DADT repeal after Collins said she wasn’t ready to move forward. Collins represents the key Republican vote needed to overcome a filibuster of the Defense bill.

“Senator Joe Lieberman and I continue to negotiate in good faith with the Majority Leader to try and come up with a fair process under which the important Defense Authorization bill could be considered in the limited time remaining in this session. Without a fair process, the motion to proceed to the bill would likely fail in the U.S. Senate.

“Senator Lieberman and I requested a meeting with Senator Harry Reid last week during which we outlined a specific plan for allowing debate and amendments similar to how the Senate has considered the authorization bill in the past.

“It wasn’t until 1:35 pm today that I received a legitimate offer from Senator Reid, which I consider a good starting point. We made a counter offer which would provide sufficient time for debate, and includes protections to help ensure that Republicans would be able to offer a limited but fair number of amendments that are relevant to this legislation.

“I am encouraged that the Majority Leader decided to postpone the vote he had scheduled for tonight. I urged him to do this so that we could consider the tax legislation first, which I believe could be on the floor as early as tomorrow and completed quickly. At that point, I believe we could move immediately to the Defense Authorization bill under a fair agreement, and I would vote to do so. I would hope he carefully considers our proposal. I believe we have outlined a very clear path forward for the Majority Leader to take that would allow this very important debate to occur.”

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Senate may vote on DADT today

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced this morning that he’s likely to bring the Defense Authorization bill containing a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” back to the Senate floor sometime later today, according to the above video posted by Wonk Room. It remains unclear, however, whether there are enough votes to break a Republican-led filibuster. And even if the 60 votes are there to proceed to debate on the bill, that doesn’t guarantee its passage. Roll Call reports:

But even if he does have the votes, Reid could be forced to drop the issue altogether once his Caucus comes to terms with the tax cut deal. With less than two weeks until the Senate is expected to adjourn, Republican opponents could drag out the DADT debate for days, eating up time needed to pass the tax cuts and continuing resolution before Christmas.

From Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:

“We expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will try again today to take up the defense bill that includes repeal. Reid is actively reaching out to his Republican colleagues to reach an agreement on how to proceed. We also know from Hill sources the President is actively working today’s vote with key Republican senators. Today the Senate has an opportunity to make the nation’s defense funding and our service members a higher priority than tax cuts for millionaires.”

UPDATE: Equality Texas has sent out an Action Alert asking people to call Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and urge her to vote for DADT repeal. The number is 202-224-5922.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: GOP pledge may doom DADT repeal

CBS News reports that Senate Republicans intend to block all legislation that isn’t related to tax cuts and government spending during the lame duck session. GOP leaders are quietly collecting signatures pledging to carry out the strategy:

If carried out, it would doom Democratic-backed attempts to end the Pentagon’s practice of discharging openly gay members of the military service and give legal status to young illegal immigrants who join the military or attend college.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has made both measures a priority as Democrats attempt to enact legislation long sought by groups that supported them in the recent midterm elections.

—  John Wright

SHOCKER: With Pentagon study complete, Sen. Cornyn has new excuse for opposing DADT repeal

Sen. John Cornyn

With the Pentagon study on repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” to be released today, we inquired of Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn’s office whether he believes it would now be prudent to move forward on this issue during the lame duck session of Congress. After all, Cornyn told us in June he didn’t believe Congress should act on DADT repeal until the study was complete.

Here’s the response we received moments ago from Cornyn spokesman Kevin McClaughlin:

“There are a handful of time sensitive issues that must be addressed during lame duck. A continuing resolution to fund the government, the medicare reimbursement rate also known as the ‘doc fix,’ and preventing every American from incurring a massive tax increase on the first of the year just to name a few. Sen. Cornyn believes these things should be the focus of the lame duck session.’

So there you have it. Repealing a discriminatory policy that hurts the military and is opposed by the vast majority of Americans is simply not a priority for our junior senator, who by every indication will be joining his party’s filibuster of the Defense spending bill to which the DADT amendment is attached. A better question at this point would probably be whether Cornyn will introduce toxic anti-gay amendments to the Defense bill if Democrats can overcome the filibuster — such as a measure to overturn same-sex marriage in D.C. If you’ll remember, this is what Cornyn tried to do with health care reform.

We still haven’t heard back on a similar inquiry to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s office, but don’t get your hopes up.

—  John Wright

All we want for Christmas is DADT repeal

Just wanted to pass along a significant update to our story on DADT repeal that appears in this week’s Dallas Voice: Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said Thursday that he believes supporters of repeal have the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican-led filibuster. The only question, it seems, is whether there will be enough time between the Thanksgiving recess and the end of the year to debate the Defense spending bill to which DADT repeal is attached. From The Advocate:

“I am confident that we have more than 60 votes prepared to take up the Defense authorization with the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ if only there will be a guarantee of a fair and open amendment process, in other words, whether we’ll take enough time to do it,” Lieberman told reporters at a press conference, naming GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Richard Lugar as “Yes” votes. “Time is an inexcusable reason not to get this done.”

Lieberman noted that two items could be negotiated by Senate majority leader Harry Reid and minority leader Mitch McConnell – the number of amendments to be considered and the amount of time for debate on those amendments.

Full and open debate on the bill could take as many as two weeks but an agreement between Reid and McConnell might also shave that down to just one week. Regardless, given that other bills will also eat up some of the remaining days, providing some sort of open amendment process will likely require that Senators stay past the targeted adjournment date of Dec. 10 until at least Dec. 17.

Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly breaks down where Democrats are likely to get the four Republican votes needed to overcome an expected filibuster attempt led by Arizona Sen. John McCain.

And we may be getting a little ahead of ourselves, but what a wonderful holiday gift DADT repeal would be for the entire LGBT community, and especially for gay veterans and servicemembers. On the flip side, it will be a bitter pill to swallow if DADT repeal doesn’t happen because senators feel like going home or to the Bahamas. Will Lieberman’s Chanukah oil burn long enough to get the job done? Will Harry Reid be like a Mormon Santa Claus? Or will McCain just be the grinch?

—  John Wright