"Don't ask, don't tell" repeal defeated in US Senate
The US Senate defeated a bill Tuesday that included a measure to repeal a ban on gays serving openly in the military, with Republicans lining up to block Democrats from bringing the legislation to a final vote, dpa reported.
The Senate voted 56-43 in favour of advancing a 725.7-billion- dollar defence spending policy bill that contained the repeal, but fell four votes short of the 60 needed under Senate rules to move toward a final vote.
The vote was a defeat for President Barack Obama, who campaigned on repealing the ban. The Pentagon in February announced its intention to scrap the 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which allowed gays to serve in the military as long as they didn't reveal their sexual preference. Repealing the law requires congressional approval.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said efforts will continue to get the bill passed and eliminate "don't ask, don't tell."
"We're disappointed at not being able to proceed to the legislation, but we'll keep trying," Gibbs said.
Several Republican senators said they support ending the policy but opposed Tuesday's bill because Democrats limited their ability to add amendments and to debate.
Maine Senator Susan Collins said she believed the bill should be repealed but objected to the Democratic tactics ahead of November's legislative elections. "I cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that is going to shut down debate and preclude Republican amendments," Collins, a moderate Republican, said on the Senate floor.
The bill's chances for passage were dampened by a Democratic decision that attached legislation that would eventually give legal status to illegal immigrants attending college in the United States or serving in the military. Republicans accused Democrats of using the Dream Act to drum up votes in the November 2 congressional elections, and said it was an immigration issue that did not belong in a defence bill.
The defeat means another vote could be postponed until after the elections. Gay rights groups had been lobbying to end "don't ask, don't tell, arguing that it amounts to discrimination while depriving the military of talented individuals.
They say more than 13,000 gays and lesbians have been expelled from the military since then-president Bill Clinton signed the law 17 years ago.
The House of Representatives voted to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" in May.
Despite supporting the congressional repeal, the Pentagon opposed rushing to a vote in Congress until the Defence Department completes a review of how to implement allowing gays to serve openly in the military. That review is due December 1. Republicans criticized Democrats for rushing to a vote before the November elections.
But a compromise was reached between congressional Democrats and the White House that included delaying implementation of the measure until the Pentagon completed the review.
Defence Secretary Robert Gates in March issued new rules under "don't ask, don't tell" to make it harder to expel individuals from the military pending the outcome of formulating a new policy.
Opponents of lifting the ban worried that openly gay service people could disrupt discipline within the ranks and ultimately harm combat effectiveness at a time when the United States is fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Gates' task force has been evaluating how openly gay people serving in the ranks could impact discipline, as well as other complex issues, including family benefits and how to deal with potential gay marriages. The review is examining housing and other day-to-day issues.