It became clear as Senator Susan Collins of Maine stated her opinion on the floor of the Senate today that the end was still out of sight for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. “I find myself on the horns of a dilemma.” Collins stated. She first made an impassioned plea for striking “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” from law by passing The Defense Authorization Act, stating “I think it’s the right thing to do. I think it’s only fair,” but she followed by stating, “I cannot proceed to this bill under a situation that is going to shut down debate and preclude republican amendments. That too is not fair.”
Democrats persistently reiterated that the vote was simply a push to proceed with debate, not the vote to pass the proposed legislation. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, took the Senate floor after Collins to say that he agreed that members should have the opportunity to amend it, but Republicans planned to filibuster the motion to proceed to the debate - and without proceeding to the debate, there could be no amendments.
Republicans, including Senator John McCain, (R-AZ) put forth the same offense they have repeated in recent weeks; stating the DREAM Act – a bill that would allow certain undocumented high school graduates conditional permanent residency - and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal are tacked on to the Defense Authorization Bill extraneously and do not specifically relate to the bill, along with echoing Collins’ concern of the feared inability to add amendments and debate the bill openly and freely.
Another blow to the Democrats was Obama's pick to lead the Marine Corps telling a Senate panel today that he worried changing the policy would serve as a "distraction" to Marines fighting in Afghanistan.
"My primary concern with proposed repeal is the potential disruption to cohesion that may be caused by significant change during a period of extended combat operations," Gen. James Amos said in a written statement provided to the panel for his confirmation hearing. Senator McCain directly referenced the quote and read General Amos’ words aloud to further his argument on the Senate floor.
Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, maintained repeal would return again before the year was out, and that the proposed legislation would make its way through Congress one way or another.
Earlier today, PFLAG, along with numerous other organizations, sent a letter to the Senate members, urging them to support repeal for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. In the letter, PFLAG and our allied organizations outlined the poignant reasons as to why the law no longer belongs in effect, referencing the testimonies given by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen. The letter also evidenced where the American public stands on repeal – which an overwhelming majority support at 79% for repeal – as well as recent judicial decisions calling the law unconstitutional. Despite this, the Senate did not meet the 60 votes needed for cloture to move the bill to debate on the floor; the vote was 56-43. While we at PFLAG National are immensely disappointed by this decision, we are still wholeheartedly committed to fight against the law that denies our loved ones the opportunity to serve simply because of who they are.
This post was written by Eric VanDreason, the newest edition to PFLAG National’s Policy Team. To learn more about Eric and his role at the National Office, please visit our staff page here.