Speakers at a Friday noontime rally calling on Congress to end “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” blasted West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin's Thursday vote against repeal.

As the only Democrat to join Republicans in blocking repeal of the law that bans gay and bisexual troops from serving openly, Manchin drew the wrath of disappointed gay rights activists.

“I was disappointed yesterday in Senator Joe Manchin from the state of West Virginia,” former Army Sgt. Pepe Johnson, a West Virginia native who was discharged under the policy, told the crowd. “I was embarrassed because Joe Manchin decided to be a lone ranger and vote against the repeal of don’t ask don’t tell, saying he’d only been in office for three weeks, said he didn’t have a chance to hear from the people of West Virginia.”

“Well, Joe Manchin, if you can't hear me now, you better get a hearing aid,” he added.

Manchin, the former governor of West Virginia, took over the seat previously held by the late Robert C. Byrd, who voted in favor of lifting the ban.

In a statement released after the vote, Manchin offered a half-hearted apology.

“I truly understand that my position will anger those who believe repeal should happen now and for that I sincerely apologize,” Manchin said. “While I am very sympathetic to those who passionately support the repeal, as a senator of just three weeks, I have not had the opportunity to visit and hear the full range of viewpoints from the citizens of West Virginia.”

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemember Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the largest group lobbying for repeal and the sponsor of the rally, called Manchin's vote “unconscionable.”

“There were high expectations Senator Manchin would follow in the footsteps of Senator Byrd, whose name he invoked repeatedly in the campaign.”

Sarvis added that Manchin will have a chance to redeem himself in an upcoming vote for a stand-alone version of repeal.