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Senate moves ahead on repeal of military ban on gays

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-12-18

US President Barack Obama's bid to overturn the ban against gays serving openly in the military has cleared an important Senate hurdle, paving the way for a final vote as early as Sunday.

REUTERS - A White House-backed bid to end the ban against gays serving openly in the U.S. military cleared an important Senate Republican hurdle on Saturday, advancing a major step toward becoming law.

Supporters mustered more than the needed 60 votes in the 100-member Senate, 63-33, to limit debate on the legislation to lift the 17-year-old "don't ask, don't tell," policy. Six Republicans joined the Senate Democratic majority to support repeal.

The Senate is expected to give it final congressional approval as early as Sunday, clearing the way for President Barack Obama to sign it into law. The House of Representatives passed the bill earlier this week.

Obama vowed during his 2008 presidential campaign to end the ban, which he denounced as unfair, unwise and a violation of basic human rights. He had been facing criticism from liberal groups who said he failed to push hard enough to end the policy.

At least 13,000 men and women have been expelled from the military under "don't ask, don't tell," which allows gays to serve in the armed forces as long as they keep their sexual orientation secret.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other supporters of the repeal argued it would allow for a more orderly transition for the military than would occur if it was delayed until the likely court-ordered end to the policy.

Once it is enacted into law, as anticipated, the Pentagon will have an undetermined amount of time -- possibly months -- to educate service members and prepare for the policy change before it is ready to 'certify' the repeal.

When the repeal is certified, there will be another 60-day period before the new policy of allowing gays to openly serve takes effect. Until that time "don't ask don't tell" is still in effect.

"The only method of repeal that places the timing of the repeal and control of implementation in the hands of the military leaders is enactment of this bill," said Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Opponents of gays serving openly in the military argue that lifting the ban would undermine order and discipline and harm unit cohesiveness, especially among combat troops.

What's best for the military

Republican opposition has been largely led by Obama's 2008 White House challenger, Senator John McCain, a former Navy pilot and prisoner of war in Vietnam.

McCain said it may be too early to end the ban and challenged a recent Pentagon study that forecast little impact if the policy were lifted. In a Senate speech, he argued against imposing a change while the country is at war.

"This debate is not about the broader social issues that

are being discussed in our society, but what is in the best interest of our military at a time of war," McCain said.

Date created : 2010-12-18

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