The US Senate Saturday voted to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the policy that bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the US military, in a 63-33 cloture vote Saturday, paving the way for a repeal of the 17-year-old policy.
All 55 Democrats, two Independents and six Republican senators -- Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Susan Collins of Maine, George Voinovich of Ohio, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Scott Brown of Massachusetts -- voted for cloture, giving the measure enough votes to override a Republican filibuster.
The bill, which already passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday by a vote of 250-175, will now undergo a token final passage vote in the Senate which could come as early as Sunday. From there it will head to President Barack Obama's desk for his signature to become law.
A repeal of the policy, which Obama had campaigned on during the 2008 presidential election, had looked unlikely in the 111th Congress until earlier in the week when Murkowski, Snowe and Brown announced that they would join Democrats in support of a repeal.
Language repealing the policy that was included in a 2011 defense authorization bill failed on a 57-40 cloture vote in the Senate last week. In that vote, Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican to vote on the side of repeal. The other Republican senators voted against the bill as part of their party's commitment to vote down all legislation until the Senate passed the tax cut compromise and a spending bill to fund the federal government.
The decision by Brown, Snowe and Murkowski to vote for a repeal this time around was instrumental in overturning the policy. Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who favored repeal, also missed last week's vote due to a dentist appointment.
“The existing 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' policy is in my opinion inconsistent with American values,” Sen Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.),who co-sponsored the legislation, said on the Senate floor prior to the vote.
Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, who opposed a repeal of the policy, praised the US military and said that it will adjust to the new rule put upon it by Congress.
“They will do what is asked of them, but don’t think it won’t be at great cost,” he warned.
The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was put into place in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton as a compromise with Republicans, after he campaigned on a platform of allowing gays to serve openly in the military.
Earlier this month, a government report that assessed the potential impact of repeal found that about 70 percent of US soldiers surveyed by the Pentagon did not object to gays serving in the military.
The report also found that between 40 and 60 percent of troops serving in male-dominated specialty combat operations, in particular the Marine Corps, predicted the repeal of the ban would have a negative effect on their units.
Public opinion polls have also suggested that the public favor a repeal.