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The US Senate dealt a potentially deadly blow Thursday to efforts to end a nearly two-decade ban on gays serving openly in the US military, voting against taking up a bill to repeal the restriction.
Lawmakers voted 57-40 — three votes short of the 60 needed — to move forward with annual military spending legislation that included a measure ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
The motion was a defeat for President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders, who had made repealing the 1993 law a priority in the “lame duck” session of Congress between November elections and the end of the year.
Republicans, who oppose scrapping the ban, will take control of the House of Representatives from January and Democrats in the Senate will see their majority dwindle to 53 out of 100, meaning the move is unlikely to pass during the next session of Congress either.
The law, adopted as a compromise under former president Bill Clinton and now opposed by a majority of Americans according to numerous polls, requires gay and lesbian troops to keep their sexual orientation to themselves or face discharge.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine was the lone Republican voting in favor of ending the ban, but she was not joined by any of her colleagues, who say it would disrupt military discipline and readiness at a time when US troops are fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Activists said they were “deeply disappointed” by the vote.
“Today could have been a day of celebration for all Americans who support our servicemembers to serve both honorably and honestly,” Log Cabin Republicans executive director R. Clarke Cooper said in a statement, noting the gay rights group was “angered” and “disappointed.”
“Instead, brave men and women will continue to serve under a failed and unconstitutional policy that has been firmly rejected by the American people, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”
A small group of Republicans who said they supported ending the ban had wanted more time to negotiate the voting process first.
Just before the voting got underway, Reid acknowledged that the procedural wrangling would likely doom his efforts.
“Despite the critical importance for our troops, for our nation and for justice that we get this bill done, we have not been able to reach an agreement,” he said in a speech on the Senate floor.
“And I regret to say that it is our troops who will pay the price for our inability to overcome partisan political posturing.”
Copyright © 2010 AFP