Senate Fails to Pass Controversial Defense Bill

by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

The U.S. Senate may have dealt a death blow to any chance of repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy” this year when the Senate Majority Leader was unable to muster enough votes to open debate on the Defense Spending bill to which it was attached.

The Washington Post is reporting that the Senate fell short of 60 votes in favor of starting debate on a defense spending bill that had three controversial amendments tacked on at the last minute by liberal lawmakers. One amendment called for the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, which restricts homosexuals in the military. A second amendment would have allowed military facilities to perform abortions and a third would have granted amnesty to illegal immigrants.

When the final vote was tallied, it was 56-43 in favor of debate, just four votes shy of the number needed to bring the bill closer to passage.

While yesterday’s vote does not end efforts to lift the military’s 17-year ban on gays serving openly in uniform, it will cause significant delays in the effort to repeal the ban.

But gay rights advocates are not giving up.

“This issue doesn’t go away,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group providing legal assistance to troops impacted by the gay ban.

“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,” he told the Post.

Other homosexual activists put the blame on the White House, Congressional Democrats and other gay rights groups for not pressing harder for appeal.

“The Democrats have been against ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ for more than a decade and why we allowed this law to remain in effect for another two years is beyond me,” said Richard Soccarides, a former gay rights adviser to Bill Clinton. “I think we as a gay community all bear a significant share of responsibility for not insisting that the unconstitutional and discriminatory policy not be ended right away.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins called the vote “a victory for the men and women who serve our nation in uniform. At least for now they will not be used to advance a radical social agenda.”

Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, echoed his praise. “To distract from the purpose of the Defense Authorization Bill, which is to fund our troops, is unacceptable. The social agenda of a few people should not get in the way of supporting the men and women who fight to protect Americans.”

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