More than 60 senators, enough to overcome a filibuster, agreed DADT should end. Military leadership has endorsed repeal. Volumes of empirical evidence, including the Pentagon’s own study and the experiences of the U.S.’s own military allies, show that ending the policy would offer minimal risk of disruption. Yet the vote fell short anyway.
This is not 1964, with Senator Richard Russell filibustering the Civil Rights Act in a losing attempt to preserve Jim Crow. Senator Brown, who voted no, said last week that, “I have visited our injured troops at Walter Reed and have attended funerals of our fallen heroes. When a soldier answers the call to serve, and risks life or limb, it has never mattered to me whether they are gay or straight. My only concern has been whether their service and sacrifice is with pride and honor.” Brown did not vote no today because he thinks that gays and lesbians should not be allowed to serve openly. Brown voted no because of mere procedural objections about when the vote should be taken. The message Brown sent today is that whether a soldier serves with distinction and honor is actually secondary to the procedural niceties of the U.S. Senate.
I once asked a service member who had been deployed to Iraq what she thought about DADT. She recounted how a member of her unit had asked my friend to inform her partner and child in the event that she did not make it home. For obvious reasons, this woman had to hide the existence of her family from the service. At this point she was choking back tears — both because of the thought of losing her friend, and the depth of the responsibility she had been asked to take on. Gay and lesbian soldiers will not stop fighting and dying on foreign battlefields all over the planet as a result of this vote. They will simply do so in secret.