Mel Tips of Palm Springs, who is part of American Veterans for Equal Rights has bee been fighting to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for 18 years. “Oh no, not again, ’cause they keep dragging this on”, said Tips of the vote. “It’s not doing anything good for anybody. We have lost lawyers, linguistics, because they were; We could have used them.”
Republican senators voted unanimously against advancing a major defense policy bill that included the provision. The vote dealt a major blow to gay rights groups that saw the legislation as their best hope, at least in the short term, for repeal of the 17-year-old law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Initially, advocates had thought that Democrats might win the 60 votes needed to overcome GOP objections and advance the bill. Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Maine Republican, was seen as a crucial vote because she supports overturning the ban.
But Collins ultimately sided with her GOP colleagues in arguing that the bill shouldn’t advance because Republicans weren’t given sufficient chance to offer amendments to the wide-ranging policy bill.
While most people KESQ spoke with are against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, others like Bill of Palm Desert, who wanted us to use his first name only, are in favor of keeping the ban as is. He said, “I feel strongly about it, I think we should keep it the way it is, it’s against my religious beliefs.”
Democrats included the repeal provision in a $726 billion defense policy bill, which authorizes a pay raise for the troops among other popular programs. In a deal brokered with the White House, the measure would have overturned the 1993 law banning openly gay service only after a Pentagon review and certification from the president that lifting the ban wouldn’t hurt troop morale. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was put into place in 1993, by then-President Clinton.
An estimated 13,000 people have been discharged under the law since its inception. Although most dismissals have resulted from gay service members outing themselves, gay rights’ groups said it has been used by vindictive co-workers to drum out troops who never made their sexuality an issue.