Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had initially asked that Congress not begin the legislative process to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" until after the Department of Defense review. The Pentagon said Gates changed his mind after he was informed that would not be possible, a sign that Democrats are expecting a substantial loss in their numbers in Congress in November's mid-term elections.
President Obama, Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen sent Congress a signed certification stating that they've all considered the recommendations, the Pentagon has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to implement it, and that the new policy is "consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the armed forces."
The three had to certify that the change wouldn't impair the military's ability to fight.
Republican lawmakers panned President Obama and Democrats for moving forward with the vote.
"We're saying we're shoving this down your throat and we don't care," Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said on the House floor Thursday. "The military is not a social experiment."
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, solicited letters from four service chiefs in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine, opposing a vote on the repeal until the Pentagon review is finished.
Democrats say the amendment gives Pentagon what they were asking for, a review on the policy before it's actually implemented.
"If you love your country, you ought to be able to serve your country," Rep. Rob Andrews, D-New Jersey, said on the House floor. "That's the change we're talking about today."
Democrats are getting some resistance from conservative members of their caucus, but in the Senate, where the votes were expected to be harder to get, Sen. Ben Nelson's support provided a needed boost to the leadership.
Nelson, a conservative Democrat from Nebraska, said he would support the amendment in the bill and felt that the provision allowing the policy to be implemented after the Pentagon's review ensured that the military would be ready before the ban was lifted.
"In a military which values honesty and integrity, this policy encourages deceit," he said.
The "don't ask, don't tell" policy was implemented in 1993 under President Bill Clinton. It disallows gays and lesbians from openly serving in the U.S. armed forces.
Gay and lesbian rights groups applauded the Senate committee vote, calling it a "historic step."
"The importance of this vote cannot be overstated -- this is the beginning of the end of a shameful ban on open service by lesbian and gay troops that has weakened our national security," Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights organization that advocates for gay and lesbian rights, said in a statement. "The stars are aligning to finally restore honor and integrity to those who serve our country so selflessly."
But others say the question of when it will actually be implemented still needs to be answered.
Lt. Dan Choi, a 29-year-old openly-gay service member whose discharge is pending, said the compromise is "absolutely not what we've been asking for" and that he will not be satisfied until the Pentagon actually implements the policy and lifts the ban.