Saturday, December 18, 2010

One Giant Step for Equality...

It didn't seem possible.

A lame duck Congress. Days before the Christmas recess. Emboldened Republicans determined to control legislation being passed before the New Year. An outspoken Marine commandant breaking ranks with his superiors and the Pentagon, giving ammunition to conservative opponents.

Yet this afternoon, by a vote of 65-31, the Senate approved the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which has prohibited gay and lesbian soldiers from openly serving in the military since March 1, 1994. More than 13,500 soldiers—many of them highly decorated and commended for their service—have been discharged as a result of this law.

While certification is required from the President, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Secretary of Defense before anyone can serve openly, this is a tremendous victory for equality. Finally, enough Senators and Congressmen had the conviction to do what is right. (Earlier in the week, the House approved the repeal with a 250-175 vote.)

Eight Republican Senators—Scott Brown (MA), Richard Burr (NC), Susan Collins (ME), John Ensign (NV), Mark Kirk (IL), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Olympia Snowe (ME) and George Voinovich (OH)—voted courageously with all but one Democrat on this historic legislation. They should be saluted for their strength. (West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who had spoken out against DADT repeal, did not vote today.)

As expected, conservatives already have spoken out against the repeal. The reaction of Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association (another hate group with the word "family" in its name) was documented on the Truth Wins Out blog. But given that 77 percent of Americans support the repeal, these voices will get more and more strident as they are ignored by all but their most fervent supporters.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used a Republican stalwart's words during today's historic vote. Quoting Senator Barry Goldwater, he said "You don't have to be straight to shoot straight."

The haters will hate, but finally, the law is on the side of equality. While it is sad that 206 of our elected representatives (including "hero" John McCain) voted to stay discrimination and hide behind bigotry, today's vote is one giant step in the right direction.

As President Obama said, "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."

Music to my ears. Hooray!

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