Both of Alaska's senators on Saturday voted to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Enacted in 1994, the policy forbids gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The vote ends a colossal struggle, one that has forced gays and lesbians in the military to keep their sexual orientation under wraps at the risk of being discharged. According to Servicemember's Legal Defense Network, an advocacy organization for LGBT military personnel, more than 12,500 service members have been kicked out of the armed forces over the Clinton-era policy.
In anticipation of the vote, Sen. Lisa Murkowski issued a statement saying, "I've heard from Alaskans across the state who believe it's time to end this discriminatory policy, and I agree with them." Many Alaskans had been wondering whether Murkowski, one of eight Republicans who voted for the repeal Saturday, would follow through with her pledge to end the policy
Sen. Mark Begich joined his fellow Democrats in the 65-31 vote. The sole Democratic senator who didn't vote was Joe Manchin of West Virginia; he spent his day at a holiday party in his home state. Manchin had previously said he was against the repeal.
In a statement, Sen. Mark Begich said "I have long-supported the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and am pleased we can now move forward on ending this outdated, discriminatory and harmful policy."
Here are Begich's and Murkowski's statements on their votes:
Mark Begich's statement:
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich released the following statement after the Senate today voted to repeal the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. The measure passed the Senate with a bi-partisan vote of 65 to 31. It now goes to President Obama for signature: "I have long-supported the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and am pleased we can now move forward on ending this outdated, discriminatory and harmful policy.
"After an exhaustive review where thousands of military members were interviewed, 70 percent polled said the repeal would have a positive or no impact on unit effectiveness, our top military leaders have assured us the forces are ready, and this change can be carried out with minimal disruption.
"I have the utmost respect for our service men and women and look forward to continuing to work to make sure they have the policies, services and equipment necessary to do their jobs safely and efficiently each and every day."
Lisa Murkowski's statement:
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, released the following
statement today after voting to end debate and move to consideration of a bill that would repeal the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. A final vote on the measure will likely occur on Monday, and Murkowski will vote for the measure.
"I am pleased that the Senate voted today to end debate on the President's proposal to repeal the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and allow gay and lesbian service members to serve openly in the military. I intend to vote yes on repeal when that final vote comes to the Senate floor. Our military leaders have made a compelling case that they can successfully implement a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It is infinitely preferable for Congress to repeal the law, and allow the service chiefs to develop and execute a new policy, than to invite a court-ordered reversal of the law with no allowance for a military-directed implementation. I've heard from Alaskans across the state who believe it's time to end this discriminatory policy, and I agree with them."