The Senate has once again failed to move on an important national issue. On Tuesday, the Senate voted against pushing forward a bill that would repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” DADT — an executive order enacted by President Bill Clinton — allows gay men and women to serve in the military as long as they withhold their sexual preferences. And while 69 percent of Americans support the repeal, according to a Gallup poll, the Senate hasn’t responded to the public’s demands to repeal the law. The Senate needs to find the political will to pass legislation that will rectify this unconstitutional regulation.
During the Clinton administration, Clinton was unable to repeal the Defense Department ban on gays in the military. Instead, he created DADT, allowing members of the LGBT community to serve in the military. When elected, President Barack Obama stated that repealing DADT would be a priority of his administration. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen have also stated that DADT is out of date and should be repealed. And while the repeal was recently approved in the House, the Senate was unable to get the filibuster-proof 60 votes needed to send it to a conference committee.
According to a Sept. 21 report by CNN, Republicans in the Senate filibustered a defense reauthorization bill that would also repeal DADT. This bill also contained provisions for the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants who have graduated from a U.S. high school and attend two years of a four-year university or serve in the military. All Republicans voted against pushing the bill forward. Two Democrats from Arkansas also voted against the bill. Senate majority leader, Harry Reid (D-Nev.) voted against the bill in a procedural move, allowing it to be rescheduled for future debate. The final Senate vote was 56 to 43. 60 votes are needed to override the threat of a filibuster and proceed on a bill.
The Defense Department ban on gay people in the military is not only unfair and discriminatory — it’s also unconstitutional. It’s disappointing that in a nation built upon the ideals of free speech and freedom of belief, individuals are compelled to hide their preferences because of fear of discrimination.
In addition to being discriminatory, the ban has proved to be unpopular. A May 2009 Gallup poll showed that the majority of the American public wants to repeal the ban. Obama and his administration and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff want to repeal the ban. The House has already passed it and now it is about time the Senate got on board.
This bill fell prey to partisan politics. To win political support, Senators once again killed good legislation. This partisan stalemate isn’t particular to DADT — most major pieces of legislation have met the same opposition. In a political climate where major policy issues need to be addressed, Congress spends more time squabbling than getting something done. It’s time for Congress to work together and fulfill the role of the legislative branch.
Prohibiting members of the LGBT community from serving in the military is a backward policy that needs to be done away with as soon as possible. And, at this point, it’s up to Senate to repeal the ban. America has seen enough partisan politics. What it now demands is action.