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.
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
“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
“There were high expectations Senator
Manchin would follow in the footsteps of Senator Byrd, whose name he
invoked repeatedly in the campaign.”
added that Manchin will have a chance to redeem himself in an
upcoming vote for a stand-alone version of repeal.