The U.S. House of Representatives has passed an amendment to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act which would repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding homosexuals serving in the armed forces. Idaho’s House delegation vote was split; Congressman Walt Minnick voted to repeal it, while Congressman Mike Simpson voted to keep it in place.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” has been policy since 1993, when it was passed as a compromise between those who favored the outright ban on homosexuals in the military that was in effect at the time, and those who advocated allowing them to serve openly. It requires homosexuals serving in the military to hide their sexual preference, and not to engage in homosexual behavior while serving.
According to USA Today, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to end the policy as well. It’s expected to go to a full Senate vote next month. If passed by the Senate, the fate of “don’t ask, don’t tell” would still hinge on the results of a survey being conducted by the armed forces, the results of which are due Dec. 1. The survey is being conducted to determine if it would be disruptive if homosexuals are allowed to openly practice their lifestyle.
The chiefs of staff of the Army, Navy and Air Force, and the commandant of the Marine Corps had asked that Congress delay its vote until the study is finished. According to Fox News , Marine Commandant James Conway wrote a letter to Sen. John McCain, ranking member of the Armed Service Committee. "The value of surveying the thoughts of Marines and their families is that it signals to my Marines that their opinions matter," said Conway in the letter.
Idaho Rep. Simpson said, “I am concerned that the Democrats insisted on moving ahead with a politically-charged vote to repeal the current ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy when military leaders have specifically asked Congress to give them the opportunity to study the ramifications of such a move. I support the efforts by the Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff to give our military personnel a chance to be heard on this issue, and I felt I had to oppose the effort to undermine this process by tacking this provision onto an otherwise bipartisan bill supporting our troops.”
Minnick released a statement, “The amendment gives military commanders the time and space they need to study this issue before any changes take place, and assures that we will defer to them for this decision. I was concerned that we might have been getting the cart before the horse by voting ahead of their determination on the issue, but those concerns were addressed in this amendment. The decision will ultimately be left up to the military.”