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Senate Ignores Combat Troops' Concerns, Moves to Repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

1:25 PM, Dec 18, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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The Senate voted 63 to 33 today in favor of cloture on the bill to repeal the U.S. law banning openly gay people from serving in the military. Six Republicans voted for cloture: Scott Brown, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Lisa Murkowski, George Voinovich, and Mark Kirk.

Repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT), while supported by a majority of American voters in polls, was opposed by the chiefs of the Marine Corps, Army and Air Force. And 67% of Marines in combat arms units said repeal would have a negative effect on their unit's ability to complete their mission (non-combat troops were less concerned about repeal). Said one Marine lieutenant:

"My team's effectiveness is directly tied to its cohesiveness. Despite differences, we are so close that we anticipate each other's next move in garrison and in combat. Our ability to do our job is predicated on this kind of relationship. If you were to add any element of sexual competition, inter-unit sexuality, or hesitance in trust, it would unquestionably prevent those bonds from forming or immediately destroy them if introduced."

General James F. Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, said last week that repeal could cost lives:

“Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines lives,” he said. “That’s the currency of this fight.

“I take that very, very seriously,” he added. “I don’t want to lose any Marines to the distraction. I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda [National Naval Medical Center, in Maryland] with no legs be the result of any type of distraction.”

Now that the Senate has ignored this warning and moved ahead with repeal, the question is how implementation of repealing DADT will proceed. Repeal won't be implemented until the president, the secretary of defense, and the chairman of the joint chiefs all say that the armed forces are ready for repeal. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said during an exchange with Senator Scott Brown said that it could be years until he'd be willing to sign off on the implementation of repeal. Of course, Gates is leaving his post sometime in 2011, and there's no guarantee that Obama's next defense secretary will be willing to wait so long to implement a policy change that the president's left-wing base has been fighting for for a very long time. 

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