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House repeals DADT (for 2nd time) - Here is my summary of the debate

Wednesday, December 15th, 2012

Here is a play-by-play of the House debate on repeal of the military policy of discrimination called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT)." The first House vote was about the rule of debate which passed 232 to 180. Then there was an hour for debate before holding the final vote to repeal.

The vote for repeal PASSED by the House with a vote of 250 to 175.

Fourteen Republicans voted YES and I thank them for making the right decision: Judy Biggert (R-IL), David Dreier (R-CA), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), John Campbell (R-CA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Joseph Cao (R-LA), Ron Paul (R-TX), Mike Castle (R-DE), Todd Platts (R-PA), Charlie Dent (R-PA), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Charles Djou (R-HI)

Fifteen Democrats voted NO: Boren (OK), Bright (AL), Childers (MS), Critz (PA), Davis (AL), Davis (TN), Marshall (GA), McIntyre (NC), Ortiz (TX), Peterson (MN), Rahall (WV), Ross (AR), Skelton (MO), Tanner (TN), Taylor (MS).

Several times during this debate General Amos is quoted as saying that gays would cause a distraction and cause his Marines to lose their legs in battle. That comment is ridiculous and offensive. Staff Sergeant Eric Alva, who lost his right leg in Iraq says "He pretty much spit on me" when he said soldiers might lose limbs if DADT were repealed. One soldier said, "I served as an out lesbian in the Navy for 13 yrs, and I am offended at General Amos' claims that my presence jeopardizes my unit's safety."


Here are the comments made House members during the rules debate:

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL): He thinks the Pentagon report is most important factor to consider when voting on the DADT bill. He doesn't like not being able to have a motion to recommit. He says the procedure lacks transparency. Steps "totally out of regular order." That is untrue (see Frank's comments below).

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO): "We already debated and voted on this issue this summer." The House had passed the repeal, but the Senate Republicans filibustered having any debate on the issue which was part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The greatest risk is having the courts act. "The sooner we act, the better. Let's be on the right side of history."

Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA): DADT removes much-needed troops during our two wars. The study report says repeal would have no negative impact on readiness. "All of our service men and women are first and foremost Americans. DADT is the only federal statute requiring someone to be fired based on their sexual orientation."

Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA): "No good has ever come of DADT, but a lot of bad has. Service women and men are holding their breath in fear - not of enemy, but of a law passed by Congress." She quoted a service member who said she didn't want to scream that she is gay - she just wants to "breathe easier" knowing she no longer has to worry about being discharged.

Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV): "Those who volunteer to serve should only be thanked."

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL): "Do the right thing" for veterans like Leonard Matlovich. His tombstone reads, "The military gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA): It's "bigoted nonsense" that "someone like me" would undermine troops [he is gay]. He went after the procedural argument. "The House has voted, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) has voted. The House is not the one ignoring procedural Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). We haven't gone through regular order?! We've gone through TRIPLE regular order!"

Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI): speaks as a veteran in favor for DADT repeal.

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX): speaks of the story of a constituent who served under DADT. "It is time now for America to be America." She also mentioned the work done by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC.org).


Here are the comments made House members during the debate for repeal:

Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA): "Due diligence has been done, and the time to act is now." DADT is "inconsistent with American values." She has "great confidence" in military leaders' professionalism during implementation of repeal.

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA): Nothing he said was valid excuse. He takes issue with the procedure of bringing the bill to the floor. He wants the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) to review the bill before proceeding. Where has this guy been? It's already been discussed, debated, and studied. The House has already passed it. Passage of the bill is not make the repeal immediate - it just gives permission for repeal once the military is ready for implementation. If the risk of repeal is too great (which it isn't) then wouldn't it be better to implement the change in an organized way instead of an immediate change that is mandated by a court order? He stated that 3 of 4 chiefs said DADT repeal would be negative, but he left out how they ALL FOUR said that they could implement the repeal effectively. He said Marines would be distracted by repeal, which is totally disrespectful to the professionalism and capabilities of our armed forces. He wants to wait for all of our "world conflicts" to end before progressing with DADT repeal. Maybe after this vote, he should work on ending those conflicts?

Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA): She reminded the Republican of the point I just made about the change not being made upon their vote - but when the military certifies they are ready to implement the repeal.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): She points out that the discrimination policy of DADT contradicts our American values of liberty and freedom.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC): He says a higher priority was placed on DADT versus National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which funds our military. Where has this guy been? It was the Republicans in the Senate who filibustered any discussion about NDAA. He tried using the same quotes of the chiefs and wanted more hearings on the matter. Is he serious? It's already been studied and debated. I guess he has never read the study.

Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Arkansas): America benefits from the contributions of gays and lesbians. Repeal allows the military to "catch up" with the rest of the world. "My boys, and all American children" will be better off with repeal. Gay police, paramedics, and fire-fighters manage to get their jobs done without distracting co-workers.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD): "It hasn't been helpful, just not particularly hurtful." How is discharging over 14,000 qualified troops during two wars not "hurtful" to the country? He said that the low Congressional approval is for not doing what over 75% of the American people wants them to do. Most Americans support repeal, so you'll have an even lower approval rating if you fail to pass the repeal. He says he "regrets" that there are prejudices but "can not ignore" that they're out there. Then why are most members of his party acting on their own prejudices? Shouldn't a leader be leading us forward? Eight out of ten Americans support repeal. A new Washington Post / ABC News polls finds that 77% of Americans support repeal.

Rep. Smith (D-WA): "We have studied this to death. It is time to act. This is not introducing a brand-new concept" - gays serve now. Four points:
1. Process - implemented 17 yeas ago and studied it to death. "Argue against the bill, but don't hide behind procedure."
2. Gays are already serving in the military and have functioned quite well.
3. How do the policies we advance make us safer?
4. Study showed that 55% of troops and their families didn't say they had "no opinion" about it - they said it wouldn't have any effect on the military. Most studies only poll a few thousand people. This study allowed all service members to participate and over 150,000 of them voiced their opinion.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Missouri): Says NDAA didn't pass due to a "social agenda" and we should really be discussing the defense bill. Again, it was the Republicans in the Senate who chose twice to filibuster the debate on NDAA. Where has this guy been? He called it an "eclipse of reason" and claims the survey was biased. Since the study was done on the military - is he saying that everyone in the military is biased? That is offensive.

Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ): Quoted a senator in 1948 who made the same arguments against racial integration. Attitudes have changed: Even Colin Powell who wanted DADT 17 years ago is now speaking out against the policy. Andrews invites members to think about the silenced voices, like gays and lesbians wounded in combat and buried in Arlington Cemetery. Repeal is about an "act of basic decency and justice. Today is the day to get it done. Vote yes."

Rep Doug Lamborn (R-Colorodo): He says the study was flawed because it wasn't a referendum. It is the leaders of the military who argue that soldiers follow orders and don't get to vote on policy. That is true. If we held a survey on being in Iraq and Afghanistan - what do you think our troops would say? Our troops take an oath to uphold the Constitution and follow orders of the President and all other officers in their chain of command. The President (who is Commander in Chief) wants repeal, the Secretary of Defense wants repeal, and the military (with the exception of a few) say they are ready to implement the repeal. If Lamborn thinks the study was flawed - where were his objections when the mandates of the study was created?

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA): Gave excellent remarks. He has been fighting against discrimination since being side-by-side with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "Vote yes for equality...vote yes because on the battlefield, it doesn't matter who you love, but what flag you serve."

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ): He complained that the military didn't get a say about repeal. "let's give military the simple courtesy to deal with this issue in its own way." If Congress will pass repeal, they will get to do it their own way. If they don't pass it, the courts will do it for them. I guess he is another person who hasn't read the study before trying to debate it...

Rep. James Langevin (D-RI): DADT is "costly, ineffective, and unnecessary." We've discharged 14,000 qualified troops under the policy and wasted over a billion dollars on legal fees and training for people we have discharged.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA): He used Amos' statement on losing legs. He tried to use Colin Powell's statement - the same one that Powell now says was a wrong decision. "The military isn't a YMCA - it is something special. Don't compare this to civil rights. The military is not the place to have a liberal crusade to create a utopia of a liberal agenda and experiment during war time." Says DADT is "waste of time" and we should be discussing IEDs. It is the military that must hold those type of discussions - not our Congress.

Rep. John Fleming (R-LA): Complains that the study didn't ask should DADT be repealed - but if it could be repealed. The federal courts have already answered the first question. [See my comments above about military polls.] Repeal would be a "social experimentation at a time when we are at war. Dropping this bomb of social experimentation. DADT has worked very well. There has been a paucity of study on DADT policy." He went back to the argument: A survey should have asked troops if they wanted repeal. Did he not listen to the discussions held during in the chiefs Congressional hearings?

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD): The Majority Leader reminded them that the Senate is the one who didn't do their job by discussing NDAA. "The minority party has not allowed it to move forward. It is never too late to do the right thing." He brought up the fact that gays are already serving with honor in the military and quoted a Marine that said, "We have a gay guy in our unit. He is big. He is mean. He kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he is gay." He went on to say, "We must pass this bill so we have a thoughtful, responsible repeal plan developed over months of study or a sudden disruptive review imposed by the courts." A legislative solution is the right thing to do for gays and our military. "I talked to Secretary Gates earlier this week. He said pass this bill." The President, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defense want a legislative solution - not a court mandated solution. Hoyer believes the conclusions reached by study is correct based on past experiences (racial integration and inclusion of women in combat roles). He tells about a constituent letter from a gay former ROTC cadet who wants to serve. He, along with thousands of other potential recruits (gay and straight), will not serve until the military ends this policy of discrimination.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX): Okay, first: why is Gohmert so angry? "We need to honor everyone who serves? That is not true! Everyday people who are impediments are turned away." So is he saying that his own constituent Danny Hernandez impeded his USMC unit? He claims that gays are "an impediment to the good order and disciple of the military and it's mission." "We need to have an accurate poll." and he claims that "nations that have adopted open service are basically crumbling. They're toward the end of their existence." Huh? They ALL said it made them stronger - where has he been? During the Congressional hearings on the study results, Admiral Mullen (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) was asked if he had discussed the matter with other commanders of nations who allow gays to serve openly and how was the effects of the change described by those nations. Admiral Mullen said he had those discussion and it had been described as "a non-event." [which means there were no problems]

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX): "The time has expired for DADT to stay on the books. All Americans who are fit and willing to serve should have a fair and equal chance to serve." Reyes had served with several gays in Vietnam with no problem. "The real debate should be whether forcing our soldiers to lie is consistent with our values."

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA): As an officer in the military he knew that some of those he commanded were gay. He said that our leaders need to be in step with the times in order to keep their credibility. He commanded an aircraft carrier with over 5,000 sailors and he was there when they worked through race issues and the integration of women fighter pilots. We want the best people we can get for our military.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA): He responded to the claim that repeal would be a distraction for our troops and said, "The maintenance of this policy would be a distraction. Repealing it would not be. Troops who serve with a constant fear of being outed are the distraction."

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN): "This issue is exclusively about recruitment, readiness, unit cohesion, and retention as we are a nation at war. I think we should listen to our soldiers." I guess he is another Republican who didn't read the nearly 300 page study on repeal. He said, "DADT was a successful compromise in 1993 and so that compromise should continue." Uh, It is not successful if your goal is "recruitment, readiness, unit cohesion, and retention."

Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN): Walz is the highest-ranking enlisted veteran serving in Congress and he is "offended" by the suggestion that service members can't handle this change effectively. "These brave men and women make up the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen. They accept and complete missions every day that require incredible discipline and bravery." The level of their professionalism is a testament to their capability to implement the change [my quote - not his].

Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN): "This is discrimination? The Supreme Court lets us discriminate who makes up our forces!" Huh? "Tolerance does not require a moral equivalency?" I guess he has never studied any decisions of the Supreme Court regarding discrimination... This guy is a veteran? Thank god he is out of the military because it is people like him who are the cause of many of our problems. He compared being gay to factors that exclude people from service (such as being too fat to serve).

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA): Sanchez has spent 14 years on House Armed Services Committee (HASC), and says, "Soldiers are not so fragile that having gays serving will kill them!"

Rep. John Boccieri (D-OH): "It matters not who you love at home - but that you love our country."

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH): She says, "I was a military spouse, and knew others were gay and no one cared about it. They are judged by a code of behaviour. We see men and women who are behaving honorably and serving our country. It is disgraceful to throw someone out of the military who has done nothing wrong."

Rep.Tammy Baldwin (D-WI): DADT is "un-American. Let's move further down the path for equality for all LGBT Americans. It is long past time for Congress to end this policy."

Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA): "Remember, all men and women are created equal."

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA): Again, he quotes General Amos by saying "DADT repeal is going to cost lives."

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA): Told the story of a cab driver who served in the last racially segregated unit in the Korean War. The unit had five guys who were gay and he thought those guys were the best. All five were on the boxing team of his unit and they "beat the stuffing" out of anybody they fought against. "That's what we need.. the best fighters this country can produce. Put those Americans to work fighting for freedom; we need them."

Rep. Al Green (D-TX): Green gave the most moving argument of the debate and said, "Life has prepared me for this vote. When you have had to sit on the back of a bus, in the balcony at a movie, and stand in a line for colored only then you are prepared for this vote. I assure you that I don't need a survey to tell me what's right when it comes to human rights. We can not truly have a first-class military with second-class soldiers. I will not ask people who are willing to die for my country - to live a lie for my country."

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA): Armed Services Committee Ranking Member. He claims repeal would "put lives in jeopardy." Was he sleeping during the Armed Services Committee hearing where they discussed the results of study?

Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA): "Let's move forward. No. More. Excuses!" At that moment, the time for debate had expired.

With the debate ended, the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell was passed for a second time in the House of Representatives.

It is now up to the Senate to pass the repeal. With this issue now being a standalone bill - there are no more excuses. The Senators will finally be forced to make a decision and their failure to do the right thing will be recorded in all of the future textbooks of American History.

Best regards,

-- Gary Wright II

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