Republicans blocked a last-ditch effort in the US Senate to lift the military’s ban on openly gay troops, rejecting another project pushed vigorously by US President Barack Obama.
The 57 to 40 vote on Thursday fell three short of the 60 needed in the 100-member chamber to overcome procedural hurdles to lift the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that replaced in 1993 an outright ban on gays in the US military.
In his 2008 campaign for the presidency, Obama promised to overturn the law. More recently, he has declared it one of his top legislative priorities for the year, but the White House did little to push the legislation, focusing instead on tax cuts and a nuclear arms treaty with Russia.
Repeal advocates said the fight was not over, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seemed to have little appetite to return to the subject with only a week left in the post-election session and other major legislation pending.
“The other side may feel passionately that our military should sanction discrimination based on sexual orientation, but they are clearly in the minority,” Reid, a Democrat, said of Republicans. “And they have run out of excuses.”
Gay rights advocates were furious because the Senate vote failed largely due to a procedural disagreement.
More than 60 senators were expected to support repeal, with at least four Republicans having said they support overturning “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but Republican senators were united in demanding that the Senate vote on tax cuts first.
The Senate vote came after former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn announced in an interview with The Associated Press that he thinks gays could serve openly without damaging the armed forces’ ability to fight. Nunn, who led opposition to gays in the military in 1993, said he would advise that the Pentagon be given at least a year to prepare troops for the change.