House lawmakers on Friday approved a
defense bill that includes language to repeal the Clinton-era policy
that bans gay troops from serving openly.
With a 234 to 194 vote late Thursday,
agreed to attach Pennsylvania Representative Patrick Murphy's
amendment that ends the law known as “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” to
next year's defense budget.
Friday's vote on the amended defense
bill narrowed to 229 to 186, with few Republicans voting in favor of
“With today's successful final
passage vote on the defense budget bill, the repeal of 'Don't Ask,
Don't Tell' continues to move forward,” Aubrey Sarvis, executive
director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group that
lobbies for repeal, said.
The actions in the House Thursday were
just steps behind the Senate, where a
key panel approved attaching similar repeal language to the defense
bill over the objections of most Republican members. Only one
GOP member on the committee – Maine Senator Susan Collins –
crossed the aisle to vote with all Democrats except Virginia Senator
The full Senate is not expected to vote
on the defense bill until later this summer. Republicans, led by
Arizona Senator John McCain, have signaled they will attempt to block repeal of
the gay ban, including filibustering the defense bill.
“I'll do everything in my power” to
block a vote, McCain said.
Openly gay Massachusetts Congressman
Barney Frank called Thursday's votes “one of the most important
advances in our fight against prejudice based on sexual orientation.”
“A very few years from now, it will
be clear that the fears expressed by our opponents' arguments were
totally without foundation,” Frank said in an email.
He also thanked Speaker Nancy Pelosi,
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, and Patrick
Murphy “for their extraordinary leadership in bringing this about.”
Opponents of repeal were hoping
pressure from the president and the Pentagon to hold off on repeal
until after the Defense Department has completed an implementation
study due in December would sway moderate Democrats to vote against
repeal. But on Monday, Democratic
leaders and the White House reached a compromise plan to repeal
“Don't Ask, Don't Tell” but delay its implementation until
after the study is complete and the president and military leaders
have checked off on the policy changes.
Senators Robert Byrd of West Virginia
and Ben Nelson of Nebraska said the agreement swayed them to vote in
favor of abolishing the 1993 law.
But in explaining his vote, Webb said
he believed that the Pentagon study should be completed before
legislative repeal takes place, adding in a statement that he was
concerned that “many members of the military would view such a move
as disrespectful to the importance of their roles in this process.”
“We now look to the full Senate to
pass DADT repeal by mid-summer and bring the defense bill to the
president's desk by October 1,” Sarvis said.