Watch video highlights of the floor debate:
This discriminatory and harmful policy has weakened America's security by depriving our nation of the service of thousands of gay and lesbian troops who have served their country honorably - and forcing even larger numbers of troops to lie about who they are. The House passed this repeal, as an amendment to the DOD bill, in May 2010 by a vote of 234 to 194, and it is long overdue for the Senate to pass it as well.
As Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others have emphasized, it is critical that Congress pass this legislation, empowering the Defense Department to implement repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT) itself, rather than have repeal imposed by the courts. If repeal is implemented by DOD, it will be implemented in a much more orderly and thoughtful way.
Poll after poll show that the American people strongly support repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, released today, finds that, by a 56 percent margin, nearly 8 in 10 Americans say that gays and lesbians who DO publicly disclose their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the military (77 percent to 21 percent).
The Department of Defense survey of service members on repeal of DADT, released in November, also had striking results. 70 percent of service members believe that serving beside an openly gay colleague would have positive, mixed or no effect on unit cohesion. And of the troops who believe that they have already worked with a gay service member, an overwhelming 92 percent believe that doing so was a very good, good, or neutral experience.
The DOD survey also concluded that nations including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, Italy, and Israel have integrated openly gay troops "with little or no disruption."
In urging Congress to quickly enact the repeal of DADT, Secretary Gates has emphasized, “Given the present circumstances, those that choose not to act legislatively are rolling the dice that this policy will not be abruptly overturned by the courts.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen also strongly supports the repeal of DADT. Mullen testified before Congress, “I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens; to me, it comes down to integrity, theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”