House debates whether to drop 'don't ask, don't tell' policy

Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) hears testimony from Obama Administration cabinet members during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill April 22, 2009 in Washington, DC.
Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) hears testimony from Obama Administration cabinet members during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill April 22, 2009 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The U.S. House of Representatives is debating a measure that would repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military.

El Segundo Democrat Jane Harman said those who want to maintain the policy reiterate arguments that allowing openly homosexual men and women to serve in the armed services would hurt “morality and morale, unit cohesion and readiness.” She said similar arguments were made "when women and African-Americans were allowed to serve alongside our white male counterparts. But be it race, gender or now sexual orientation, our military services have demonstrated the commitment and ability to integrate and embrace diversity."

Harman referred to one female officer’s blog that said repeal of the policy didn’t mean she’d be “jumping out the window” screaming she’s gay. Instead, she said, it allowed her to breathe easier, knowing her job is secure.

Republicans, like the incoming Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Congressman Buck McKeon, asked for a “no” vote – at least now. The Republican Congressman from Santa Clarita cited concerns from a trio of military leaders, saying the change in policy on openly gay soldiers would be a distraction. "I also believe we should do nothing at this time to threaten the readiness of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who are at the tip of the spear, fighting America’s two wars."

Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reminded her colleagues that they’d already voted for repeal earlier this year. She urged them to vote for repeal again to end what she called “discrimination” in the military.

A House vote is expected this afternoon.

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