History is made. After a critical vote to prevent a filibuster, the Senate today repealed the law discriminating against gays in military service 65-31. Eight Republicans supported the bill, as did both of Arkansas's senators. The vote came sooner than originally expected and now goes to President Obama for his signature.
Wow. Thanks is due in some part to the Republican obstruction of the omnibus spending bill earlier this week. That took a huge time killer off the lame duck session's calendar.
The Senate earlier Saturday voted 63-33 to defeat the Republican filibuster. Six Republicans voted to bring the issue to the floor. The roll call confirms that Sens. Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln voted to end debate as they had promised to do.
The votes were expected to be in hand this morning, but some Republicans threatened to kill the nuclear arms treaty to block passage. John McCain, Bob Corker and Lindsey Graham, kept it classy to the end with this unbelievable threat. "Either keep discriminating against gay people or I'll let nuclear weapons proliferate," they effectively said. Supporters of the repeal called their bluff.
This is an enormous and dramatic step on a journey that began uneasily in 1993 with the Clinton administration's don't-ask-don't-tell. policy. The new policy won't take effect immediately. Military leaders have 60 days to plan for the transition. But removal of a discriminatory statute from the books is a watershed moment, a symbolic victory that will stretch far beyond gay military service. If gay people can fight and die for their country — and they already do — why can they not otherwise fully participate in the American promise? From the debate:
"I don't care who you love, if you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn't have to hide who you are. You ought to be able to serve," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who plans to stay in Washington this weekend before undergoing surgery for early stage prostate cancer next week.
It was already written before today that Arkansas congressmen Mike Ross, Marion Berry and John Boozman had joined the inglorious roster of American politicians who've stood in the way of human dignity and equal rights down through the years. May they be appropriately remembered.
Sen. John McCain called this a "sad day." Mike Ross should issue a statement of sorrow in solidarity in keeping with his political strategy to never cast a vote in support of gay people. They're wrong of course. A super-majority vote for equality is anything but cause for unhappiness.
Sadly, the Senate could not overcome the filibuster on the DREAM Act, to provide a path to citizenship to aliens brought to the U.S. as children. The cloture vote was 55-41, with 60 needed. Sen. Mark Pryor joined mostly Republicans in defeating the effort to reward scholarship and military service of long-time American residents with full participation in our democracy. Sen. Blanche Lincoln was a sponsor of the legislation.