U.S. Senate again blocks DADT repeal
The U.S. Senate voted again Dec. 9 against taking action to authorize repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell ban on open gays in the military. The vote was 57-40. Sixty votes were needed to launch the process.
Repeal authorization has already passed the House of Representatives, and President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen are eager to end the ban.Read more story below....
All Senate Republicans except Susan Collins of Maine voted against repeal. All Democrats except Joseph Manchin of West Virginia voted for repeal. Two Republicans and one Democrat did not vote.
"This was a major failure on the part of the Senate to simply do its job and pass an annual defense authorization bill (of which DADT repeal is a part)," said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United. "Politics prevailed over responsibility today. ... Since the votes are there in isolation (from the political battles the measure apparently is mired in), the Senate should still consider a stand-alone bill to repeal the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law before adjourning for the winter holidays."
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., said he promptly introduced a new bill to repeal DADT that is not tied to any other bill.
"Senator Collins and I and others are introducing a free standing bill to repeal #DADT today," Lieberman tweeted. "We are working with our colleagues and are confident that there are at least 60 Senators who support repeal. Senator Reid told me he will 'Rule 14' the free-standing #DADT repeal so it skips cmte and can come directly to the Senate floor."
Activists, meanwhile, called on President Barack Obama to issue a "stop loss" order to end DADT discharges, and to tell the Justice Department to stop appealing court rulings that have struck down the ban.
"The Senate's apparent refusal to act on Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal makes presidential action imperative in order for him to fulfill his State of the Union promise," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "If Congress won't act, it's up to the president to clean up the mess they made when they enacted this discriminatory and unconstitutional law nearly two decades ago."
According to HRC: "Under his powers to ensure national security following the September 11 attacks, the president has the ability to issue stop-loss orders preventing certain service members from discharge. Pending an enduring solution to this unjust and discriminatory law, the president can and should suspend DADT-related discharges under the stop-loss provision."
HRC also called on Obama to "abandon" the government's defense of DADT in court cases. Similar calls were issued by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality California and other groups.
In a statement, Obama said: "I am extremely disappointed that yet another filibuster has prevented the Senate from moving forward with the National Defense Authorization Act. ... A minority of senators were willing to block this important legislation largely because they oppose the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. As commander in chief, I have pledged to repeal this discriminatory law, a step supported by the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and informed by a comprehensive study that shows overwhelming majorities of our armed forces are prepared to serve with Americans who are openly gay or lesbian. A great majority of the American people agree. This law weakens our national security, diminishes our military readiness, and violates fundamental American principles of fairness, integrity and equality."
Lesbian couple honored at State Department
A U.S. lesbian diplomat and her partner who helped found Albania's gay movement while stationed there were honored at the State Department on Dec. 2 with the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Overseas.
The award, handed out by the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide, was given to Melissa Schraibman, who worked at the U.S. Embassy in Tirana as a resident legal adviser, and her partner, Mindy Michels.
It was presented by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg in a ceremony that was attended by former U.S. ambassadors to Albania John Withers and Marcie Ries.
It was the first time the Secretary of State Award recognized efforts to promote LGBT rights.
"This was, of course, extremely personally meaningful for Melissa and me, as the work on the Albanian LGBT movement was our primary focus over the last nearly two years," Michels said. "But it is also something that has larger meaning, as I think it was the first time that this sort of volunteerism and diplomacy on LGBT human rights has been recognized in a formal and high-level way as an important part of the work done by government employees serving abroad."
Michels said the announcement of the winners goes to every U.S. embassy worldwide.
Assistance: Bill Kelley