Don't Ask/Don't Tell debate in Senate devolves into "shameful schoolyard spats"

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Essentially, the Republicans (minus Collins) refused to advance the defense bill to which Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal is attached. The Democrats (with the exception of West Virginia's Joe Manchin) voted to stop debate and move ahead with the bill. But neither party shone.

From all accounts, Joe Solmonese had it right in his description of the proceedings, as quoted in the New York Times:

“Today leaders of both parties let down the U.S. military and the American people,” said Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign. “Instead of doing what is right, ‘the world’s greatest deliberative body’ devolved into shameful schoolyard spats that put petty partisan politics above the needs of our women and men in uniform.”

Solomonese vowed that “this fight is too important to give up despite this setback and we will continue fighting in this lame duck session. It’s not over.”

There's talk that Collins, Reid and Joe Lieberman may introduce a stand-alone bill that deals only with repeal. But prospects don't look too good; it's more likely that the debate will stay stuck in a morass of politicking and moral cowardice.

And meanwhile, gays and lesbians will continue fighting and dying for a government that dishonors their service.

Gay men and women in the military are willing to die for their country, but their government still refuses them the right to live openly.

Most of their comrades, most of their superiors and most of the American public agree that the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy — the egregious measure that forces gay and lesbian soldiers to serve in the shadows — should be repealed.

But when the matter came up for debate in the Senate today, did we get inspiring displays of political courage? Senators speaking up passionately against a blatantly unfair system? Republicans willing to cross party lines in order to take a stand?

Nah. What we got, according to news reports, was exactly one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, willing to buck her party. But her passion, and that of Democrat leader Harry Reid, seems to have been reserved mostly for arguments about procedures and timing.

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