Late last week Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler voted against repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, asserting that he was honoring the requests of military leaders. Despite his opposition, the measure passed 234-194.
On May 27, Shuler voted against repeal, joining 25 other Democrats and 168 Republican representatives. Meanwhile, 229 Democrats were joined by five Republicans in voting for repeal.
In a legislative update the next day, Shuler asserted the following about his vote:
“There was also a vote on repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military. I have the utmost confidence in the ability of our military leaders to set the policies and procedures that will best serve our men and women in uniform, and our country. A Department of Defense review of the “Don’t ask, don’t Tell” policy is under way and is expected to be completed by December 1, 2010. The Joint Chiefs of Staff for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines have all urged Congress not to act until that review is completed. In my mind, this is not an unreasonable request. For me, this question is not one of access to serve, but of how we can best honor the requests of our military leaders.
I wish all our veterans, service members and their families a happy and meaningful Memorial Day. You have my utmost respect and gratitude always.”
In a February Senate hearing, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he personally supported repealing the ban. However, Mullen has also said that ideally he would prefer that legislators wait until the study is completed before acting on the matter.
The Senate Armed Services Committee approved repeal the same day, though the full Senate still has to vote on the matter.
If it passes Congress, the House bill removing the 17-year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy will give the Pentagon until the end of the year to complete its study before the repeal goes into effect.
— David Forbes, senior reporter