The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday voted to repeal the ban on openly gay serve members, a major step toward dismantling the Clinton-era policy widely known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as part of the annual defense authorization bill.
The Senate Armed Services Committee voted in a closed session, after about an hour of heated debate.
The tally was 16 to 12. Senator Susan Collins of Maine said she was the only Republican to vote in favor of a repeal. She called the debate “vigorous.”
Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the committee, said he believed the full Senate would support the repeal.
The full House of Representatives also planned to take up an identical measure today, with a House vote coming as early as tonight.
The provision, which lawmakers are attaching to a $726 billion defense funding bill, would take effect only if the Defense Department study determines that changing the policy would not affect the military‘s ability to fight wars or recruit soldiers.
President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates favor repealing the ban, but the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines have objected.
Senator John McCain of Arizona, the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, has urged Congress to delay voting on the issue until after Dec. 1, when the Defense Department is expected to complete a review of how to impose new rules.
McCain said the policy change would be “harmful” to morale.