House votes to overturn ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

The House voted late on Thursday to overturn the ban on gays serving openly in the military, paving the way for the Pentagon to end the Clinton-era "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

The repeal passed 234-194 as an amendment to a fiscal 2011 Defense policy bill (H.R. 5136) that authorizes more than $700 billion in funding for the Pentagon, Energy Department security programs and overseas contingency operations. The vote came just hours after the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 16-12 in favor of repealing the ban.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen requested in April that lawmakers hold off on a vote until after a review was completed, but a compromise deal between Democratic lawmakers and the White House cleared the way for Congress to act on the issue.

The provision would not allow the repeal to take place until the Defense Department has finished its study on the impact of implementing a policy reversal. That study is due to Congress by Dec. 1. The legislative language also prohibits any policy change that would affect military readiness.

On the floor, supporters of the bill framed it as a push to end discrimination, while critics maintained that it would disrupt cohesiveness and morale in the Armed Forces.

President Obama announced he was pleased that Congress took bipartisan steps toward the repeal, but added, "key to successful repeal will be the ongoing Defense Department review."

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