The Senate voted against reviewing the US military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military on Tuesday in a procedural vote, indefinitely delaying a reconsideration of the measure.
AFP - The US Senate Tuesday blocked a bid to lift a ban on gays serving openly in the military, thwarting the move with political maneuvering which now puts the issue on a back-burner indefinitely.
Democratic supporters of repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy -- brought in as compromise to resolve the thorny issue of gays in the military in 1993 -- ran up against a wall of Republican resistance.
A total of 56 senators to 43 voted to advance debate on the annual Pentagon military spending bill to which the repeal of the gays ban had been attached, falling four short of the 60 votes needed to move forward.
"We're disappointed at not being able to proceed to the legislation, but we'll keep trying," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a swift reaction after Democratic Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln also voted against.
"I think you have in the defense bill obviously very important funding for the priorities of our Pentagon and our troops," Gibbs added.
Less than two months before November mid-term elections, polls show overwhelming US public support for ending the policy which requires members of the military to hide their homosexuality or be dismissed.
Critics charge the ban infringes on civil rights of gay military personnel and has harmed US national security by forcing out some 14,000 qualified troops.
But a top general told lawmakers that a Pentagon survey showed US Marines were predominantly opposed to lifting the ban.
"I've heard at the Marine bases and the Marine input for the online survey has been predominantly negative," General James Amos told the Senate Armed Services Committee in written testimony.
Amos, who has been tapped to take over as the head of the Marines, also said he opposed changing the law, which he described as a "reasonable" compromise.
"I’m concerned that a change now will serve as a distraction to Marines who are tightly focused at this point on combat operations in Afghanistan," Amos wrote.
"Equality is the prime rib of America," she told a rally of several hundred people in Portland, Maine. "But because I'm gay I don't get to enjoy the greatest cut of meat my country has to offer."
She targeted the northeast US state of Maine, home to moderate senators Olympia Snow and Susan Collins, hoping to persuade them to break with the Republican party and vote with the Democrats.
But Collins Tuesday took issue with moves by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid not to allow Republican amendments to be attached to the draft legislation.
She said while she supported repealing Don't ask, Don't tell, "it's simply not fair to block out amendments from people who disagree with my position."
While Tuesday's vote leaves the door open for the draft legislation to be brought to the Senate again, the window of opportunity is closing with mid-term congressional elections looming on November 2.
McCain, a former naval officer with strong ties to the military, has said he is not opposed to ending the ban, but does not want it repealed before a study is conducted on its impact on military effectiveness and morale.
The Pentagon is carrying out a year-long review into repealing the policy set to be completed before the end of December, which will help draw up new rules for military service.
Both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have backed lifting the ban.
"No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens," Mullen told a Senate panel in February.
The annual defense authorization bill to renew the budget of the Defense Department had been crowded with additional amendments.
Apart from the "Don't ask, Don't tell" repeal, there were also provisions that would given illegal immigrants legalization through military service and allowed privately funded abortions on military bases.
Date created : 2010-09-21