Senate Approves Repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'

Senate votes 65 to 31 to end military's gay ban.

ByABC News
December 18, 2010, 10:55 AM

Dec. 18, 2010— -- The campaign to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," which bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military, gained a historic victory today with the Senate voting to end the policy and send the bill to President Obama's desk.

Sixty-five Senators, including six Republicans, voted in favor of the measure. The House approved repeal earlier this week.

Passage of the bill to end "don't ask, don't tell" is a major victory for Obama, who has promised to end the 17-year-old law and had come under intense pressure from gay rights groups to do so before Republicans take control of the House in January.

"It is time to close this chapter in our history. It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly," Obama said in a statement hailing the historic Senate vote.

Still, advocates cautioned that gay and lesbian service members will not be immediately allowed to serve openly and could still face disciplinary action for revealing their sexual orientation.

The legislative repeal gives military leadership control of a timetable for implementing the change, stipulating that it can only occur after the president, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Congress "certify" the military is ready. After certification, there would be a 60-day grace period before it takes effect.

"Gay, lesbian and bisexual service members posted around the world are standing a little taller today," said Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, "but they're still very much at risk because repeal is not final ... Certification and the 60-day Congressional requirement must be wrapped up no later than the first quarter of 2011. The bottom line: for now, gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members must remain cautiously closeted."

The groups says more than 13,500 service members have been discharged from the military under the 1993 law.