Last Updated: Fri Dec 10, 2010 10:14 am (KSA) 07:14 am (GMT)

US Senate blocks repeal of gay military law

US Senate blocs Obama’s bid to lift the ban on gays to serve openly in the military
US Senate blocs Obama’s bid to lift the ban on gays to serve openly in the military

U.S. Senate Republicans blocked a White House-backed bid to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military, but lawmakers seeking to end the policy said they would soon try again.

The 57-40 vote on Thursday fell three short of the 60 needed in the 100-member chamber to overcome procedural hurdles to lift the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that replaced in 1993 an outright ban on gays in the U.S. military.

 The world's greatest deliberative body devolved into shameful school yard spats 
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign

In his 2008 campaign for the presidency, Obama promised to overturn the law. More recently, he has declared it one of his top legislative priorities for the year.

In the end, the White House did little to push the legislation, focusing its influence instead on tax cuts and a nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

Repeal advocates said the fight was not over, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seemed to have little appetite to return to the subject with only a week left in the post-election session and other major legislation pending.

"The other side may feel passionately that our military should sanction discrimination based on sexual orientation, but they are clearly in the minority," Reid, a Democrat, said of Republicans. "And they have run out of excuses."

Gay rights advocates were furious because the Senate vote failed largely due to a procedural disagreement.

"Instead of doing what is right, the world's greatest deliberative body devolved into shameful school yard spats that put petty partisan politics above the needs of our women and men in uniform," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group.

The 1993 law bans gay troops from publicly acknowledging their sexual orientation. A repeal provision was included in a broader defense policy bill and passed earlier in the year in the House.

More than 60 senators were expected to support repeal, with at least four Republicans having said they support overturning "don't ask, don't tell."

But Republican senators were united in demanding that the Senate vote on tax cuts first. They also wanted assurances by Reid they would be given extensive time debate on the defense bill, which contained other divisive provisions.

The Senate vote came after former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn announced in an interview with The Associated Press that he thinks gays could serve openly without damaging the armed forces' ability to fight. Nunn, who had led opposition to gays in the military in 1993, said he would advise that the Pentagon be given at least a year to prepare troops for the change.

"Society has changed, and the military has changed," he said.

Last week, the Pentagon unveiled a study that found two-thirds of troops thought repealing "don't ask, don't tell" would have little impact on their unit's ability to fight.

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