The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday night to authorize the Defense Department to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military, clearing another hurdle toward dismantling the 1993 law widely known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The provision to allow military commanders to repeal the ban was adopted as an amendment to the annual Pentagon policy bill, which the House is expected to vote on Friday.
The measure passed 234 to 194, delivering a major victory to gay rights activists who have opposed the military policy since it was enacted in 1993.
It also marks the most aggressive step by Democrats in implementing President Obama’s campaign pledge to end the policy.
The repeal would be allowed 60 days after a Pentagon report is completed on the ramifications of allowing openly gay service members, and military leaders certify that it would not be disruptive. The report is due by Dec. 1.
Earlier Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a similar measure allowing the repeal.
The vote, in a closed session, was 16 to 12, with one Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, in favor of the repeal, and one Democrat, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, in opposition.
In a statement released by the White House Thursday night, President Obama hailed the votes, and said the “legislation will help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity.”
In his State of the Union Address in January, Obama called on Congress to repeal the ban.