After years of contentious debate, the Senate on Saturday voted to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that blocked gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.
While critics, including Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain, said the repeal would cause a deadly distraction on the battlefield at a time of war, the lawmakers backing repeal equated the vote to other historic moments including the end of racial segregation among troops in the 1950s and the decision to allow women to attend military service academies in the 1970s.
"It is time to close this chapter in our history," President Obama said in a statement hailing the vote's passage. "It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed."
Yet the repeal is far more than just a single policy shift. The overturning of "don't ask, don't tell" is likely to create a ripple effect in addressing other gay-rights issues, as many states continue to debate issues including same-sex marriage and the right of gay partners to share benefits the same way legally married couples do. With gay service members serving openly, it will become difficult for policy makers to justify, say, withholding visitation rights or survivor benefits to the same-sex spouse of a wounded or fallen soldier.Read More »from In a historic vote, the Senate overturns ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’