Obama: ‘This is a very good day’

President signs bill to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Click here to watch video of Obama’s speech
Click here for more reactions
Related story: Military will write rules on repeal of ban

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

Following a dramatic and eloquent speech, President Barack Obama on Wednesday morning, Dec. 22 signed the legislation that will launch the repeal of a 17-year-old law that prohibits openly gay people from serving in the military.

“This is done,” he said, looking up and slapping his hand on the table, and the crowded auditorium of an Interior Department building in Washington, D.C., erupted with cheers and applause.

The historic ceremony took place less than 24 hours after Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took an 11th-hour action of trying to make implementation of repeal much more difficult and time-consuming.

According to a report on Politico.com, McConnell tried to introduce an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill that would have required that implementation of DADT repeal not take place until after the four service chiefs certify that it could be done without negative consequences for military readiness. The DADT repeal legislation that passed last week requires certification only by the president, the secretary of defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

According to Politico, McConnell attempted to add the amendment by unanimous consent, but Senator Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., a champion of the repeal measure, objected. Lieberman’s objection effectively blocked the amendment from being considered.

The president was greeted with a roar of cheers and applause after he was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden at 9:13 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday. As the president greeted many special guests on stage with him, the crowded began to chant, “Yes, we can,” a prominent slogan of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. When the president reached the podium, he smiled and called back, “Yes, we did.”

“I am just overwhelmed,” said President Obama, beginning his prepared remarks. “This is a very good day, and I want to thank all of you, especially the people on this stage.”

He then told a story about a soldier who fought in the Battle of the Bulge in the Belgian mountains against the Germans in World War II. The soldier, Andy Lee, who put his own life in peril in order to scale a ravine and rescue a fellow soldier, Lloyd Corwin. Forty years later, Lee let Corwin know he was gay.

“He had no idea,” said President Obama of Corwin, “and didn’t much care. Lloyd knew what mattered. He knew what kept him alive.”

Obama also told the story of a young female servicemember who gave him a hug on a receiving line in Afghanistan several weeks ago, when the president made a visit to the troops. The woman whispered in his ear, “’Get ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ done,’” said the president. “And I said to her, ‘I promise you I will.’”

With the signing of the bill today, President Obama has also fulfilled a long-standing promise to the LGBT community overall, a feat that is prompting widespread praise, even from gay Republicans.

“He made this a priority,” said R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans group, who a front row seat during Wednesday’s ceremony. “He was sincere and correct about making this a priority.”

As Obama shook hands with guests on the front row, Cooper said he told the president, “You said get me those [Republican] votes and I got more than you needed.”

In a critical procedural vote to force the repeal measure to the floor in the Senate on Saturday, six Republicans joined Democrats and Independents to provide more than the 60 votes necessary to break the Republican-led filibuster.

Cooper said the ceremony was a “very emotional” one in the auditorium and that “there were definitely many tears of joy” in his eyes and in the eyes of other former servicemembers discharged under the DADT policy during the past 17 years.

The president acknowledged the tenacious work of numerous individuals during Wednesday’s ceremony, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Republican Sen. Susan Collins, and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Patrick Murphy.

NBC News Washington Bureau Chief Mark Whitaker, speaking on MSNBC shortly before the ceremony, said it was House Majority Whip Hoyer whose idea it was to take DADT repeal language out of the annual defense authorization bill — which was being filibustered by McConnell, Sen.  John McCain, R-Ariz., and most Republicans — and put it into a special standalone bill in the House last week.

The House passed that bill on Dec. 15 on a 250-175 vote and sent it immediately to the Senate, which approved it Dec. 18 on a 65 to 31 vote.

The president also singled out Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., in the front of the auditorium, for having “kept up the fight” in the House.

Speaking to MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell Tuesday night, Frank characterized the congressional vote to repeal DADT as being “comparable to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.”

“It is an enormous move forward,” said Frank. Frank said he was moved by a special ceremony held on Capitol Hill on Tuesday by House Speaker Pelosi and Majority Whip Hoyer to sign the enrollment document for the bill to be sent to the president. The hundreds of people in attendance saying “God Bless America.”

“It was a very moving moment,” said Frank.

Also on stage for Wednesday’s ceremony was Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, an openly gay Marine from San Antonio who was the first servicemember wounded in the Iraq War.

The president used 15 pens to sign the legislation into law. It was not immediately known to whom those pens will be given.

Copyright ©2010 Keen News Service. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

—  John Wright

Reactions to DADT repeal signing

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese:

“Today gay and lesbian patriots serving their country in silence, and thousands more who wish to serve the country they love, can breathe a sigh of relief that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is on its way out. Soon, all service members will be able to serve with the full honesty and integrity the uniform demands.  No more careers will come to an end because of an unjust law.  ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has weakened our military readiness and is now on its way to the dustbin of history.

“After 17 years of this failed and discriminatory law, a stain has been removed from our nation.  This historic day would not be possible without the leadership of President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen.  In the U.S. House of Representatives, we are grateful to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Rep. Patrick Murphy for their dogged determination. And in the U.S. Senate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Sens. Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, Kirsten Gillibrand and Mark Udall will go down in history as champions of this national security measure. Through their leadership, they have made our nation more secure and restored honesty and integrity as core values of our military.

“It’s now incumbent on the president and the Pentagon to act expeditiously so that the final nail can be put in the coffin of this unjust and discriminatory law.”

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey:

“We celebrate this historic day, when our country has honored the principles of fairness and justice it holds so dearly. This is a tremendous victory. We thank all those who fought for and supported an end to the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy — they truly are on the right side of history. Seventeen years of witch hunts under this policy have cost thousands of exemplary service members their careers, once again proving there are very personal and costly consequences of discrimination. This cannot end fast enough. Our entire country benefits when fairness prevails, when qualified and patriotic service members no longer have to fear being targeted by their own government, when courageous men and women are able to serve openly and honestly. We thank President Obama for signing this critical legislation and now call upon him as commander in chief, and his top military leaders, to swiftly lead us through to full implementation.”

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:

“In signing this bill today, President Obama delivered on a defining civil rights measure for our country and for gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members who have been silenced for far too long. Clearly, this is President Obama’s Lyndon Johnson moment in history. A measure of dignity has been restored to thousands of service members on active duty, and to over a million gay veterans who served in silence. This historic moment is about those service members and their service.

“President Obama was decisive and forceful in steering the course as he brought along critical stakeholders, including the Defense Department. Now, it’s on to finishing the job at the Pentagon. Troops remain at risk under the law. We respectfully renew our call for Secretary Gates to use his authority to suspend all ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ investigations and discharges during this limbo period. Until there is certification and until the 60-day implementation period must be wrapped up no later than the first quarter of 2011.

“This victory would not have been possible without several tenacious Congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. In the Senate we saw remarkable determination by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Chairman Carl Levin and Senators Lieberman, Mark Udall, Gillibrand, Collins and so many others.”

—  John Wright

Joe Lieberman blocks Senate Republicans’ last-ditch effort to kill DADT repeal

On the eve of Wednesday morning’s signing ceremony for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Republicans in the Senate reportedly made a last-ditch effort to undercut the measure. Once again, though, it was Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman to the rescue, as he objected to — and blocked — a “poison pill” amendment proposed by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Politico reports:

A last-ditch effort by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to complicate the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was blocked Tuesday night after Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) objected, Senate aides said.

McConnell attempted to add an amendment to the so-called stripped-down defense authorization bill that would have required the consent of the military service chiefs to proceed with “don’t ask” repeal. Under legislation passed by the Senate last week, certifications are required from the president, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. All the incumbents in those positions support repeal.

“It was a McConnell proposal,” a GOP aide confirmed. “There was an attempted to get unanimous consent for it to be included in the defense bill and someone objected.”

—  John Wright

DADT update: Discharged vets file lawsuit; standalone repeal bill up to 40 sponsors

Mike Almy, a highly trained communications officer who served in the Air Force for 13 years, is one of three plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Three veterans discharged under “don’t ask don’t tell” filed a lawsuit earlier today against the government (read the filing here). The lawsuit brought by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network seeks reinstatement as well as a ruling declaring the 17-year-old policy unconstitutional and unenforceable anywhere. And needless to say, the lawsuit is aimed in large part at putting pressure on Congress to repeal the 17-year-old policy during the lame duck session. The Associated Press reports:

The legal action came four days after the U.S. Senate for the second time this year blocked a military spending bill that also would have repealed the 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops.

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., have introduced a standalone measure, but it’s uncertain if it will be brought for a vote before the Senate and House adjourn for the holidays.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network director Aubrey Sarvis said the lawsuit was meant as a warning to lawmakers that if they don’t act to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the courts could step in and order an integration timetable that is less to the Pentagon’s liking.

“If the Senate fails to act in the lame duck session, we are prepared to litigate this aggressively,” said Sarvis, whose group coordinated the lawsuit and prepared it with lawyers from a private law firm.

“From my perspective, this is the first shot over the bow,” he said.

Meanwhile, the standalone bill that would repeal DADT now has 40 Senate co-sponsors, but only one of them is a Republican, and that’s Collins. A vote on the bill could come later this week or early next week, assuming the Senate sticks around that long.

We’ve contacted the offices of Texas Republican Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn to inquire about how they plan to vote on the bill, as if we don’t know already. But as of this post, we had received no response. Hey, anyone planning a sit-in?

—  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

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

Obama to Dems: ‘This is the time that counts’

President, other party leaders aim to fire up core constituents

LIZ SIDOTI  |  Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Democrats desperately need other Democrats — to vote.

With midterm elections in just six weeks — and Republicans fired up and ready to go — Democratic leaders are pushing issues that resonate with their constituencies, from trying to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military to allowing thousands of young illegal immigrants who attend college or join the military to become legal U.S. residents.

Democrats also have expressed outrage over Republican-aligned, big-money shadow groups. And they’re intensifying efforts to reach out to their core backers.

“This is the time that counts,” an equally fired-up President Barack Obama told Democratic donors Monday, Sept. 20 in Philadelphia as he harkened back to the energy in his 2008 campaign. “I want all of you to remind yourselves why you got involved and why you care deeply and not lose heart. But gird yourself for a battle that’s worth fighting.”

Two days earlier, Obama urged the Congressional Black Caucus to redouble its efforts: “I need everybody here to go back to your neighborhoods, to go back to your workplaces, to go to the churches and go to the barbershops and go to the beauty shops. And tell them we’ve got more work to do.”

His appeal to the bedrock groups of the Democratic Party comes in the homestretch of an election season in which Republicans are poised to gain seats in the House, possibly seizing control, and the Senate. Polls show Democrats far less excited about the Nov. 2 elections than Republicans are, while independent voters tilt heavily toward the GOP. The onus is on Democrats to mobilize their core constituencies — minorities and die-hard Democrats among them — to show up at the polls.

“It’s going to be very hard to win if the base doesn’t turn out in big numbers,” said Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent who votes with Democrats. Given the landscape, he said: “Democrats have to try to change the minds of some independents, and that’s going to be hard. So, the main priority of Democrats, to avoid what could be a disastrous election, is to bring out the Democratic voters.”

A recent Gallup poll shows that among self-identified members of each party, 47 percent of Republicans say they were very enthusiastic about voting while 28 percent of Democrats say the same. Republicans also now have a 55 percent to 33 percent advantage among independent voters.

Efforts by Obama and his beleaguered Democrats to rallying dispirited foot soldiers have been clear over the past week.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, locked in a close race in his home state of Nevada, dangled before the party immigration legislation that Democratic-leaning Hispanics favor. And, with the White House’s support, the Democratic-held Senate forced a vote Tuesday on repealing the law banning gays from serving openly in the military, a priority for gay-rights advocates.

But neither effort went anywhere. Reid never did more than promise to try to get the Senate to act on immigration, and Senate Republicans blocked the “don’t ask, don’t tell” legislation in a defeat for Democrats and gay rights advocates.

Despite the failure, Democrats, nonetheless, sent a message to their rank and file: We’re working for you, now work for us.

Republicans painted Democrats as desperately playing election-year politics.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the committee in charge of electing Senate Republicans, accused Democrats of “a blatant attempt to score last-minute votes just weeks before an election.” He added, “These tactics are an insult to millions of Americans.”

And Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said, “In Sen. Reid and the Democrats’ zeal to get re-elected, this is a cynical ploy to try to galvanize and energize their base.”

Reid, in turn, castigated the GOP for blocking the defense legislation on which he had hoped to attach the immigration and gay-rights measures, saying, “Republicans are again playing politics with our national security.”

At the White House, Obama and his aides have spent the past week hammering Republicans anew for blocking legislation aimed at limiting the amount of money corporations and unions can spend on campaign advertising.

“It’s politics at its worst,” chided Obama in his weekly Internet and radio address last Saturday. He said Republicans want to “ride this wave of unchecked influence all the way to victory.”

White House aides have been playing off that theme, vociferously objecting to GOP-aligned outside groups with anonymous donors who are spending millions to run negative advertising in Senate races across the country without having to disclose their identities.

Democratic officials say they hope the pitch will help motivate what many Democrats acknowledge is a moribund base, and, perhaps, persuade at least some independents to vote against Republicans.

From the White House to Capitol Hill, Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants also have been granting interviews to black and Hispanic media as well as other outlets whose listeners and viewers are heavily Democratic.

And starting next week, the president will participate in the first of four big-city rallies in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Nevada aimed at once again firing up backers of his 2008 presidential campaign.

The efforts to stoke the Democratic base are a striking turnaround from the last two national elections, when it was Republicans who were depressed and seeking to fire up enough of their core constituents in the campaign’s final weeks to fend off Democrats. They didn’t succeed; Democrats attracted wide swaths of voters to rise to power in Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008.

—  John Wright

BREAKING NEWS: Senate Republicans halt repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ with filibuster, 56-43 vote

John Wright  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

A proposal to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” came to a screeching halt Tuesday afternoon in the U.S. Senate, where Republicans mustered enough votes to filibuster a Defense spending bill that includes the measure.

The Senate voted by a margin of 56-43 to move forward with debate on the Defense spending bill, but 60 votes were needed to overcome the Republican filibuster.

Both of Texas’ senators, Republicans John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, joined their party’s filibuster of the Defense spending bill.

Tuesday’s vote cast doubt on the possibility of repealing DADT anytime soon, with Republicans expected to pick up seats in mid-term elections. However, the Defense spending bill containing DADT repeal is expected to come up again in the lame duck session after the elections.

“I’m disappointed by the vote today, but make no mistake: this is a cause whose time has come,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, an Independent from Connecticut who strongly supports repealing the military’s 17-year-old ban on open service. “I remain confident that we will repeal this policy that is unjust and discriminatory and counter both to our national values and our national security. We didn’t win today, but we can win this fight this year.”

The Pentagon is due to issue a report on the impact of DADT repeal Dec. 1, and some senators have said they won’t vote for DADT repeal until the report is complete. Still, advocates for DADT repeal indicated that they believe chances for the bill’s passage in the lame duck session may be slim.

President Barack Obama has said he wants to repeal DADT and vowed to do it this year. Also supporting repeal of the policy are Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Defense spending bill, including the DADT repeal provision, passed both the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee this spring. And even if the DADT repeal measure passes the Senate, it wouldn’t take effect until after Obama, Gates and Mullen certify that it won’t hurt troop morale and military readiness.

Servicemembers United, the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, issued a statement following Tuesday’s vote saying that the 60 votes needed to break the Republican filibuster in the Senate had previously been lined up. However, “last week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to use an uncommon procedural privilege on the bill that eroded support for breaking the filibuster and guaranteed the vote’s failure,” the group said.

“Intense lobbying and public pressure over the past week proved not to be enough to force either side to back down,” Servicemembers United said.

In addition to DADT repeal, Reid had pledged to amend the Defense spending bill with the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for certain immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as minors. Reid also wanted to limit the number of amendments that could be offered by Republicans, who in turn accused him of playing politics with the bill and trying to mobilize Latino and LGBT voters in advance of the elections.

Two Democrats, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, joined the Republican filibuster. Reid ultimately voted against moving forward with the bill, but his vote was a procedural move that will allow him to bring it back up for a re-vote, presumably during the lame duck session.

“Senator Reid failed to reach a compromise with Republicans and our military servicemembers will need to wait until the November elections are over for the U.S. Senate to vote on a repeal,” said R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. “This partisan arrogance is an example of why voters will be turning away from Democrats on Nov. 2.”

Michael Mitchell, executive director of National Stonewall Democrats, countered that the blame for Tuesday’s filibuster lies with the Senate Republicans who led it — and especially Arizona’s John McCain.

“Shame on the Republicans for not even allowing the repeal of DADT to be brought to the Senate floor for debate,” Mitchell said. “Senate Republicans have tragically blocked the National Defense Authorization Act because it contains language to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ showing themselves to be far outside of the American mainstream. Their actions today are just more obstructionism and willful disregard of what eight in 10 Americans want. It is a sad the lengths the GOP will go to in order to discriminate against soldiers who want to serve our country openly, honorably and with integrity. It is nothing short of a slap in the face to their service in their fight for our freedoms.

“Today, one man’s bigotry and opinions proved how out of touch the GOP is with the majority of Americans. Today Sen. John McCain held back progress and history. Sen. McCain along with the rest of the Republican party is consistently out of touch with the values that Americans hold true to in 2010,” Mitchell said. “Our commitment to repeal DADT is as strong as it was before the vote. Our commitment continues as we work and campaign to elect courageous democrats who will keep working for our full equality is even stronger. It is imperative that we keep this vote in mind when we go to the polls on Election Day and remember which party stands in the way of our path to equality.”

GetEQUAL, the national LGBT direct action group, launched a petition calling on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order halting discharges under DADT until it can be repealed legislatively. The petition is here.

“Despite this abysmal failure of Congress, there is something President Obama can do immediately to protect our gay and lesbian soliders — even if full repeal is dead in the water for now,” GetEQUAL said. “We are calling on the President to issue an Executive Order RIGHT NOW to unequivocally state that military discharges must end, immediately,” GetEQUAL said. “On top of that, and if he won’t take action, we need you to take this one step further. We need volunteers to help us hold the President accountable and meet him head-on during this election season, asking him at each campaign stop and at each fundraising party, “WHEN WILL THE DISCHARGES END?” When you sign the petition, let us know if you’re willing, if President Obama comes to your town, to take action as a first responder.”

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, called Tuesday’s vote a “frustrating blow to repeal of this horrible law.”

“We lost because of the political maneuvering dictated by the mid-term elections,” Sarvis said. “Let’s be clear: Opponents to repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ 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. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network will continue to take this fight to the American people, the vast majority of whom support repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”

Rea Carey, executive director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, accused the Senate of “playing politics with people’s lives.”

“Filibustering the defense authorization bill to block action on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal and the DREAM Act — two measures that do justice to the fundamental principle of fairness — is a disappointment and disservice to our country,” Carey said. “Seventy-eight percent of Americans support ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and countless others believe that young people should be provided a path to citizenship in the country they love and have always called home. Today’s Senate vote mocks those ideals. The senators who led and supported the filibuster effort should be ashamed.”

Alexander Nicholson, founder and executive director, Servicemembers United, called the vote “inexcusable.”

“Today’s vote is a failure of leadership on the part of those who have been duly elected to serve this nation and to put the best interests of the country ahead of partisan politics. The Senate could learn a good lesson from those who serve in uniform and who stand to benefit from proceeding to debate on this bill — serving this country means putting politics aside and getting the job done. It is simply inexcusable that this vote failed today.”

—  John Wright

BREAKING: White House OKs DADT plan

There was huge news out of Washington on Monday night, as it looks like the White House has signed off on a proposal to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” by delaying implementation of the change until after the Pentagon completes its working group study.

The proposed repeal of DADT has been in doubt for weeks, after Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was opposed to lifting the policy before the study is completed in December. However, this green light from the White House paves the way for the House and Senate to take up the repeal later this week.

The White House on Monday night issued a Statement of Administration Policy in support of the delayed implementation proposal, which was submitted by congressional leaders who are committed to a legislative repeal this year.

“The White House announcement is a dramatic breakthrough in dismantling ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, in a statement. “The path forward crafted by the President, Department of Defense officials, and repeal leaders on Capitol Hill respects the ongoing work by the Pentagon on how to implement open service and allows for a vote this week. President Obama’s support and Secretary Gates’ buy-in should insure a winning vote, but we are not there yet. The votes still need to be worked and counted.

“If enacted this welcomed compromise will create a process for the President and the Pentagon to implement a new policy for lesbian and gay service members to serve our country openly, hopefully within a matter of a few months,” Sarvis said. “This builds upon the support Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed for open service during the February hearing in the Senate, and further underscores that this Administration is committed to open service.”

—  John Wright

Lieberman to introduce DADT repeal

Sen. Joe Lieberman
Sen. Joe Lieberman

Sen. Joe Lieberman is going to introduce the bill to repeal Don’t ask, don’t tell.

I know I’m going to get bashed for this, but Queerty’s “5 reasons why making Joe Lieberman Obama’s DADT pointman is really really terrible idea” is dumb and wrong.

Queerty’s #1 reason: Democrats can’t stand the guy.

Most Democrats don’t need to be convinced. Most Democrats know DADT is wrong. Will they vote that way though? Who knows. At last count, there were 59 Democrats and 50 is still a majority. This can pass with eight opposed.

Queerty’s #2 reason: Conservatives don’t exactly love the guy.

No, but this is Washington politics. Don’t be naïve. He can call in favors. And right now the Republicans owe him big for helping to stall healthcare reform.

Queerty’s #3 reason: He is terrible under pressure.

But he’s good when he can quote facts and statistics, like this new report in the New York Times on gays in the military in other countries and how it’s had little effect.

Queerty’s #4 reason: Even old white guys don’t like him.

This is an issue that will be decided by the Senate. How the constituents of his state — which has same-sex marriage in place — feel about the issue, old, white or not, is somewhat irrelevant. Queerty mentions that in polls Lieberman would lose to a strong Democrat. Even more reason for him to do what he thinks is right, not what he thinks will get him re-elected. In fact, it might gain him more support in a state that already indicates support for its same-sex marriage laws.

Queerty’s #5 reason: Joe Lieberman is stupid.

Yup, dumb enough to get himself re-elected after losing the primary and running against a Republican and a Democratic opponent.

But for this reason, Queerty cites his opposition to healthcare reform. Lieberman represents Connecticut, home of the insurance industry. Healthcare reform is not going to come from Connecticut any more than ending tobacco subsidies will originate in South Carolina. That’s not how politics works.

However, on a number of issues, Lieberman is quite liberal. The environment. His record in that area is one of the main reasons Al Gore chose him as his running mate. On gays in the military? Jews don’t use homosexuality as a fund raising tool. Even Jewish Republicans like Eric Canter. So it’s not surprising that he’s perfectly comfortable sponsoring this legislation.

If DADT repeal passes, Lieberman will get little credit because so many people are so angry with him. If it fails, he’ll get all the blame. Obama will be criticized for making Lieberman the point man in the first place. Democratic Senators will blame Massachusetts for electing a Republican. And Republicans can sleep easy knowing they kept the country safe from Arabic translators.

—  David Taffet