The fate of the heavily discussed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy banning gays from serving openly in the military was in the hands of Republican senators this past week. The 2011 defense authorization bill, which includes DADT, needed 60 votes in order to bring the bill to the Senate floor for debate. Yesterday, Democrats failed to acquire the necessary votes to move the bill to the floor. Several Republican Senators, including Senator Scott Brown (MA) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) showed signs of support to repeal the ban, but only if they were given an open debate process on the defense bill. Following the defeat, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) announced that he and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) would attempt to bring stand-alone legislation to repeal DADT to a vote. According to Lieberman, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) will put the stand-alone repeal on the calendar, but only once they have acted on the tax and spending bills.
Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee held hearings to discuss a Pentagon study about the DADT policy. The study found that allowing openly gay service members would not harm military missions, but the question of whether the law should be repealed is up to Congress. President Obama and Defense secretary Robert Gates have urged the Senate to repeal DADT based on the findings of the study. Senate Armed Services ranking Republican John McCain of Arizona and other Republicans have said that making a change such as repealing DADT in a time of war would add undue stress to combat troops. With the defense bill being blocked from the Senate floor on Thursday, and a continuing battle over President Obama's tax deal, legislative efforts to repeal the policy have likely ended until at least 2012.