Back in May, Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler bucked his party and voted against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Yesterday evening, however, Shuler joined the majority of his party (and 15 Republicans) in voting to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. The measure passed 250-175.
Shuler, a conservative Blue Dog Democrat, had initially voted against repealing the ban in May, asserting that the move was premature, pending a military review of the policy.
That review, completed last month, indicated that most military service members support ending the policy, and several high-ranking military commanders, along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have called for its end. The latest vote on repeal, which took place last evening, saw Shuler join the vast majority of his party in voting to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. In the final roll call, 235 Democrats and 15 Republicans voted to end the ban, while 160 Republicans and 15 Democrats voted to keep it.
Shuler saw something of a progressive backlash in the May primary, losing Buncombe County in a surprisingly weak showing against unknown challenger Aixa Wilson. However, in the general election there was a serious effort to boost support among more left-leaning Democrats — for whom repeal of the ban is a high priority — for the two-term congressman, with local progressive politicians endorsing Shuler and organizing a get-out-the-vote effort, helping him to a nine-point victory over Hendersonville businessman Jeff Miller.
Before becoming law, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell must gain 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster.
— David Forbes, senior news reporter