"Don't Ask Don't Tell" Repeal Gets Key Senate Panel Vote

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports: Senators on a key Senate panel voted this evening to repeal the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy toward gays and lesbians.

Under the amendment, hashed out in a compromise this week between moderate and liberal Democrats on Capitol Hill and gay rights activists and blessed by the White House, would provide for the repeal to get a vote this year, but hold off on enacting it until a Pentagon review of how to go about allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly is completed by December.

The amendment was approved in closed session of the Armed Services Committee by 15 Democrats and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. It was attached to the annual defense policy bill and will be considered by the full Senate later this year. Lawmakers who oppose repealing the ban and others who oppose repealing it this year would need 60 votes to strip it out. It would not appear there are 60 votes in the Senate against repealing Don’t Ask Don’t tell; the final vote in committee was 16-12.

“The Don’t’ Ask Don’t Tell policy doesn’t serve the best interests of our military. It doesn’t reflect the best values of our country,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman after the vote.

“Bottom line, thousands of Service members have been pushed out of the military not because they’re inadequate or bad soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines, but because of their sexual orientation. And that’s not what America’s about. We judge people not on who you are or where you came from or what’s your religion, nationality, race or gender or sexual orientation, I would hope, but on how you do the job,” said Lieberman.

Democrat Jim Webb sided with every Republican on the Committee besides Collins. He said he can commiserate with the plight of gay and lesbian service members who cannot be public in their sexuality, but he opposes repealing the ban until a Pentagon review of how to proceed with it is completed by December.

“I think its frankly a little disrespectful of the people who are serving to move before that survey came in,” said Webb after the vote.

“I think there’s going to be many people on active duty who feel like they’ve been cut out of the process,” said Webb. “I just don’t feel like this is the proper way to move forward, although I am pretty empathetic to the situation people are facing.

A similar measure repeal is expected to come before the House of Representatives, which is considering its version of the Defense policy bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today she thinks there will be enough votes to pass the repeal in her chamber. And she disputed Webb’s point that the Congress vote only after the Pentagon review is completed.

“The legislation, the compromise that was worked out at the White House, is respectful of the fact that there is a review going on, speaking at all levels to the military across the country and in theater about how we should go forward,” she said.

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