Good news for gay rights activists: the US Congress has taken a step towards repealing a ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military.
The House of Representatives voted 234-194 to approve an amendment aimed at ending the Clinton-era “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. It followed similar action by a Senate panel a few hours earlier.
Gays and lesbians can serve in secret, but thousands have been kicked out of the military after their sexuality became known.
“When I served in Baghdad, my team did not care whether a fellow soldier was straight or gay, we cared if they could fire their M4 assault rifle or run a convey down ambush alley, could they do their job so that everybody in our unit would come home safely,” said Democrat Representative Patrick Murphy, the amendment’s chief sponsor. “With our military fighting two wars, why on earth will we tell over 13,500 able body Americans that their services are not needed?”, he added.
President Obama said he was pleased with the vote to end the 17-year-old ban. Some Republicans accused him of using the armed forces to engage in a social experiment. Congress still has to give final approval and the Pentagon must complete a review before the bill becomes law.