US House delivers victory on proposal to overturn gay military ban

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The US House of Representatives approved yesterday the proposal to overturn the law banning openly LGB people serving in the military.

The House vote, which came through at 234-194, reflects a strength of feeling among members of Congress that the 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” law brought in under President Clinton has to go, and that the US was ready for a military in which soldiers can be open about their sexuality. This was followed by the Senate Armed Services Committee who followed the same path and voted 16-12 in favour of nixing the law. In both cases, the measure was offered as an amendment to a defence spending bill

However, the Republicans voted overwhelmingly against it, citing claims from various military leaders that more time was required to complete studies about how the change in the law would affect morale among the troops.

President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have both been long-time vocal supporters of the repeal. But during an all-day House debate on the Bill to approve 700 billion US dollars on defence spending, Republicans repeatedly stated their belief that Congress shoud not progress before the Pentagon had completed their study on the potential effects of a ban repeal.

In response, House Majortity Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, said that of the 13,500 men and women discharged under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, over a 1,000 of them had filled critical positions, including engineers and interpreters. The chief sponsor of the repeal amendment, Patrick Murphy, a Pennsylvania Democrat who served in the last Iraq war, added: “My teams [in Baghdad] did not care whether a fellow soldier was straight or gay if they could fire an assault rifle or run a convoy down ambush alley and do their job so everyone could come home safely.”

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s legal director, Aaron Tax, was keen to point out that the process was not yet complete and the law not yet repealed and that LGB soldiers should presently refrain from coming and out and risking the threat of being discharged.

It is likely that the Senate will take up the bill next month.