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‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal Is Now in the Defense Bill

After the provision won a major vote in the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this evening, the House voted tonight to include an amendment overturning the military’s 17-year-old ban on open gay service into the fiscal 2011 defense authorization bill. The vote was 234 in favor to 194 opposed, with only five Republicans voting in favor and 26 Democrats voting against.

“Lawmakers today stood on the right side of history,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese in a prepared statement emailed to reporters as soon as the bill cleared the 216-vote threshold necessary for passage. “This is a historic step to strengthen our armed forces and to restore honor and integrity to those who serve our country so selflessly.”

The move followed impassioned speeches in favor of repeal by Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), all of whom argued that repeal was a crucial moral test for America.

This means that both the House and Senate now have a defense authorization bill that repeals “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The House may vote on the bill as early as tonight.

Update, 11:10 p.m.: A statement from President Obama:

I have long advocated that we repeal ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’, and I am pleased that both the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee took important bipartisan steps toward repeal tonight. Key to successful repeal will be the ongoing Defense Department review, and as such I am grateful that the amendments offered by Representative Patrick Murphy and Senators Joseph Lieberman and Carl Levin that passed today will ensure that the Department of Defense can complete that comprehensive review that will allow our military and their families the opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process. Our military is made up of the best and bravest men and women in our nation, and my greatest honor is leading them as Commander-in-Chief. This legislation will help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity.

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