Thursday, 23 September 2010

MaltaToday: Senate blocks move to lift ban on gays in US military


Vote by the US senate to lift the ban on openly gay soldiers serving in the military falls short of the 60 votes needed to proceed with the debate

The US Senate has blocked a bid to lift a ban on gays serving openly in the military, thwarting the move with political maneuvering that now puts the issue on a back burner indefinitely.

Democratic supporters of repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy – a 1993 compromise aimed at resolving the thorny issue of gays in the military – ran up against a wall of Republican resistance yesterday.

A total of 56 senators to 43 voted to advance debate on the annual Pentagon military spending bill to which the repeal of the gays ban had been attached, falling four short of the 60 votes needed to move forward.

Less than two months before November mid-term elections, polls show overwhelming US public support for ending the policy that requires members of the military to hide their homosexuality or be dismissed.

Critics charge the ban infringes on civil rights of gay military personnel and has harmed US national security by forcing out some 14,000 qualified troops.

A top general told lawmakers that a Pentagon survey showed US Marines were predominantly opposed to lifting the ban.

Amos, who has been tapped to take over as the head of the Marines, also said he opposed changing the law, which he described as a "reasonable" compromise.

Top Republican lawmaker John McCain also voted against the repeal, arguing servicemembers needed to make their opinion known before action is taken.

Pop diva Lady Gaga on Monday threw her full star power behind the efforts to repeal the policy.

She targeted the northeast US state of Maine, home to moderate senators Olympia Snow and Susan Collins, hoping to persuade them to break with the Republican party and vote with the Democrats.

But Collins Tuesday took issue with moves by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid not to allow Republican amendments to be attached to the draft legislation.

While Tuesday's vote leaves the door open for the draft legislation to be brought to the Senate again, the window of opportunity is closing with mid-term congressional elections looming on 2 November.

The Pentagon is carrying out a year-long review into repealing the policy set to be completed before the end of December, which will help draw up new rules for military service.

Both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have backed lifting the ban.

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