US House approves defense spending bill containing 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' repeal

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] voted 229-186 [roll call] Friday to approve a defense spending bill [HR 5136 materials] containing an amendment to repeal the military's controversial "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive]. The amendment [text, PDF], added Thursday on a vote of 234-194 [roll call], would prevent the repeal from taking effect until the completion of a review to determine what effects the repeal would have on military effectiveness, soldier retention, and family readiness. In order for the repeal to take effect after the review's completion, the president, secretary of defense, and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff must sign and transmit to congressional defense committees a certification stating that the review has been considered and the recommended policy changes have been implemented. Defense Secretary Robert Gates [official profile] spoke directly to troops [transcript; video] Friday, assuring them that the policy will only be revealed after a thorough analysis. The $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act will now go before the Senate, where it could face strong opposition from Republican lawmakers. The bill also contains a provision to bar the use of funds [JURIST report] to transfer or release Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees.

The compromise repeal provision was also approved Thursday by the Senate Armed Services Committee [official website. The Obama administration backed the proposal [JURIST report] on Monday, despite earlier opposition to passing a repeal before the completion of a comprehensive review. Gates had initially urged Congress to delay repealing the ban until the completion of the review, but has backed the amended repeal legislation [POLITICO report]. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen [official profile] has also backed the compromise legislation. A CNN poll [results, PDF] released Tuesday found that 78 percent of American adults believe that homosexuals should be able to serve openly in the military. In March, Gates announced changes to the enforcement [JURIST report] of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy to make it more difficult to expel openly gay service members from the military. The repeal of the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy has been an important issue for President Barack Obama since he took office, and its inclusion in the State of Union Address [JURIST report] reaffirmed it as a top priority for the administration.

 

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