Following a House vote earlier this week to do away with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell,", the U.S. Senate virtually ensured that the controversial policy concerning gay servicemen and women would be done away with this morning, voting 63-33 to cut off debate and repeal the bigoted Clinton-era compromise, which allowed gay soldiers to serve only if they kept their sexual identity a secret. (Update: Once debate was halted, the legislation passed 65-31.)
Hard-line conservatives are already scrambling to portray the historic maneuver as the act of desperate liberals clinging to the final days of a significant Congressional majority (some legislative formalities remain before DADT is offiicially toast, but the gift's as good as wrapped). Yet the fact that six Republicans voted alongside Democrats on the heels of the military's own recommendation that gays be permitted to serve openly makes such protestations seem as empty as the Pontiac Silverdome.
Others, like Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss, cited the fact that America is currently at war as a reason not to upend the turnip cart. Balderdash: That's exactly why Congress should have enacted such a policy, as if the simple question of fairness wasn't enough (it was). In order to fight on multiple fronts without restarting conscription, the American military has already had to loosen its standards in terms of who is allowed to enlist. Allowing gays to enlist openly only stands to enhance the caliber of soldier that defends our country.
The bravery of the six Senate Republicans who voted to clear the way for repeal (Update: eight voted for the bill once debate was stopped) is substantial, but pales in comparison to the gay men and women who've chosen to serve our country in the face of such a discriminatory policy. Yet make no mistake: Until gay soldiers are granted the full slate of domestic civil rights afforded their straight brothers- and sisters-in-arms, they will still face discrimination in the barracks, same as the out boy at an exurban high school who gets picked on incessantly by naively homophobic classmates. There are exceptions to these rules, but it's the rules that need to keep changing. It just got a whole lot better for gays who want to fight for their country abroad, but the fight on the homefront is far from over.