The Senate has just voted to end debate on a bill that would lift the ban on gays serving openly in the military, essentially clearing the measure for passage and signature by the president.
Lawmakers voted 63 to 33 to end debate on the current policy, put in place by former president Bill Clinton, informally known as “don't ask don't tell.”
The Senate could vote on final passage of the measure as early as today but it will most likely happen on Sunday or Monday.
“We are on the verge of ending 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' for good,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said after the vote “This is one of those moments in our history when we stepped up and squared our policies with the values this nation was founded upon.”
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network praised the vote and asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to suspend all investigations into gay members of the military while the repeal is being implemented.
Before the vote, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., an opponent of the repeal, warned that allowing gays to serve openly could serve as a dangerous distraction to those in the military who are serving in combat positions.
“Today is a very sad day,” McCain said, pointing to the injured combat veterans at Walter Reed Hospital.
“Mistakes or inattention or distractions cost Marines lives,” he said.
Democrats who backed the bill included Sen. JIm Webb, D-Va., a former Secretary of the Navy, who cited the Pentagon report supporting repeal.
“Without this I would not be voting to repeal this,” Webb said, holding up the report.