Blog of Rights

Republicans — The Final Nail in DADT’s Coffin

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 4:15pm

Following Saturday’s historic Senate vote to repeal the discriminatory and unconstitutional “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, I was struck by the undeniable fact that it was Republican support in Congress that ultimately helped to put the final nail in the coffin of this outdated law.

In the overwhelming House vote of 250-175 in support of repeal, 15 Republican representatives voted in favor of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal Act of 2010. They were:

Judy Biggert (R-Ill.)
Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.)
John Campbell (R-Calif.)
Anh 'Joseph' Cao (R-La.)
Mike Castle (R-Del.)
Charlie Dent (R-Pa.)
Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.)
Charles Djou (R-Hawaii)
David Dreier (R-Calif.)
Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.)
Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
Ron Paul (R-Texas)
Todd Platts (R-Pa.)
Dave Reichart (R-Fla.)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)

(See the full list of how your representatives voted on DADT repeal here.)

In the Senate, eight Republicans ultimately voted in favor of ending discrimination in the armed forces on the basis of sexual orientation. Those senators were:

Scott Brown (R-Mass.)
Richard Burr (R-N.C.)
Susan Collins (R-Maine)
John Ensign (R-Nev.)
Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)
Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)
George Voinovich (R-Ohio)

(See the full list of how your senators voted on DADT repeal here.)

Following Saturday’s vote, Sen. Burr said that repeal was “generationally right” given that most Americans have grown up in a time where “they don’t think exclusion is the right thing for the United States to do.” Of all the Republican supporters of repeal, it was probably Sen. Burr's vote in favor of repeal that was the biggest surprise. By way of some background regarding senators from North Carolina, one of the most famous/infamous of all time — the late Sen. Jesse Helms — was also perhaps the most vocal opponent of gay rights to ever serve in the Senate. To now have a conservative Republican senator from the very same state vote to end legalized discrimination in the military is a striking testament to just how far our movement has come.

In an editorial on Monday, The New York Times wrote:

The Senate vote on Saturday afternoon to allow open service by gay and lesbian soldiers was one of the most important civil rights votes of our time. The ringing message of the decision to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law will carry far beyond its immediate practical implications. Saturday may be remembered as the day when sexual tolerance finally became bipartisan.

The effort in the months and years to come will be to build on the bipartisan support for this historic change. LGBT people still have a ways to go in the struggle for fundamental fairness. However, as Saturday’s vote shows, we will ultimately attain that with the support of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.

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