BY Kerry Eleveld
March 03 2010 7:25 AM ET
Update: Independent senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut on Wednesday introduced the Senate’s first “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal bill along with 11 Democratic cosponsors including Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, but no Republicans.
“To me, it’s very important that we repeal this law, both because it’s
fair and consistent with basic American values of equal opportunity,” Lieberman told The Advocate, “but also because it’s a very positive step for the military
to take in terms of military effectiveness and readiness.”
The legislation, called the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2010, would repeal the 1993 law that banned lesbian and gay soldiers from serving openly in the military and replace it with a policy that prohibits discrimination against service members on the basis of their sexual orientation. Lieberman explained that the nondiscrimination provision would make the change “more permanent legislatively,” so a future administration couldn’t revert back to something akin to “don’t ask, don’t tell” by executive action.
Lieberman, who has opposed the ’93 law since its inception, said ending the policy has significant support and that he would push for passing the bill this year, although he wasn’t sure he had the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster.
“I think a guess right now — and this is really a guess — if this bill came to a vote tomorrow, we’d have over 50 votes and that’s saying a lot,” he said. “Do we have 60? Not clear yet, but possible.”
But Lieberman also said he had spoken with Chairman Levin “preliminarily” about including the legislation in this year’s defense authorization bill before it’s passed out of committee.
“That’s something that I’m happy to consider and, of course, it’s very important to have the chairman’s support for that,” Lieberman said, noting that including a measure in committee would have “the procedural advantage” of forcing opponents to find the 60 votes needed to strip out the measure once it reached the floor. If the opposition failed to amass those votes, they would have to filibuster the entire defense authorization bill, which would include many other provisions they might hesitate to obstruct, such as an increase in compensation for military personnel and funding for various defense systems.
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