US Senate edges closer to ending gay military ban later today

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The US Senate has voted to proceed to a final debate and vote on the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, the ban on openly gay people serving in the military.

Earlier today, the Senate voted 63-33 in favour of a final vote on the issue. Six Republicans crossed party lines to support the bill that has the backing of the Democrats and President Barack Obama. The vote scheduled for 3pm (8pm GMT) requires just a simple majority to repeal the ban.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted 250 to 175 in favour of repealing the ban. This put the Senate under pressure to vote on the issue today, before the ‘lame duck’ Congress goes into recess.

In January, those senators and congressmen elected in the mid-term elections held last month will be sworn into office. With more Republicans in office, the hopes of ending the ban rests entirely on today’s vote.

Senator Joe Lieberman, the lead sponsor of the bill, said the ban on openly gay people serving in the military is “inconsistent with basic American values.”

“To force the don’t ask, don’t tell policy on the military is to force them to be less than they want to be — and less than they can be,” he said earlier today. “These people simply want to serve their country.”

Earlier this week, the head of the marines said that repealing the law would lead to the death of troops. “When your life hangs on a line, on the intuitive behaviour of the young man … who sits to your right and your left, you don’t want anything distracting you,” said Marine Commandant General James Amos.

“I don’t want to lose any Marines to distraction. I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda [hospital] with no legs,” he added.

“When your life hangs on the line, you don’t want anything distracting. . . . Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines’ lives. That’s the currency of this fight.”

In May, the House of Representatives voted 234-194, in favour of repealing the ban. This was followed by the Senate Armed Services Committee who followed the same path and voted 16-12 in favour of axing the law. In both cases, the measure was offered as an amendment to a defence spending bill

But hopes to repeal the law have been continentally blocked in the Senate, mainly on procedural grounds. Just last week, a bill failed to get the 60 votes needed for a debate to be initiated.