Thursday, December 16, 2010

How LDS Members Of The U.S. House Of Representatives Voted On Repeal Of The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy Towards Gay Service Members

On December 15th, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 250-175 to pass a standalone bill to repeal the U.S. military's 17-year-old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy towards gay servicemembers.

-- Read the full roll call vote grouped by state HERE, or by party HERE.

Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-CA), the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been quoted extensively in national media as a supporter of DADT. According to HuffPo, McKeon said that passing a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by the end of the year would be an affront to the military because it wouldn't allow time for full and proper consideration of the matter. Although McKeon stated he hadn't yet taken a personal position on the issue at the time, he does have deep reservations about repealing the ban on gay men and women serving openly in the military. McKeon also cited concerns by Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey and Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos, who said on Tuesday December 14th that repeal would be a distraction that could cost soldiers their lives.

McKeon ultimately joined the 175 who voted No, and afterwards said Democrats "were more concerned about 'don't ask don't tell,' I believe, than about the military and about carrying out our responsibilities for those who are laying their lives on the line every day to protect us. That's a bad system."

So how did the nine LDS members of the House vote on repeal of DADT? Here's the scorecard:

-- Jeff Flake (R-AZ): Yes
-- Wally Herger (R-CA): No
-- Howard McKeon (R-CA): No
-- Mike Simpson (R-ID): No
-- Dean Heller (R-NV): No
-- Rob Bishop (R-UT): No
-- Jason Chaffetz (R-UT): No
-- Jim Matheson (D-UT): Yes

Eni Faleomavaega, the non-voting delegate from American Samoa, did not vote on the bill.

Flake's Yes vote was surprising, since he broke ranks with other LDS Republicans. After the vote, Flake said "I've always believed that implementing a new policy was the right thing to do, so long as the leaders of our military were okay with it...While there isn't unanimity, the military appears ready to implement a new policy."

The next move is up to the U.S. Senate, which has crafted a repeal bill designated S.4023 which is identical in language to the House measure in order to better facilitate passage. Prospects of passage are promising, since not only do all 58 Democratic senators plan on voting for the bill, but four Republicans, Olympia Snowe (ME), Susan Collins (ME), Scott Brown (MA), and Lisa Murkowski (AK) have announced their intention to join them. Of the five LDS senators, Republicans Orrin Hatch (UT), Bob Bennett (UT) and Michael Crapo (ID) are likely to vote No, while Democrats Harry Reid (NV) and Tom Udall (NM) are likely to vote Yes.

Update December 18th: My predictions on the senators partially came to pass. On December 18th, the U.S. Senate voted 65-31 to proceed with debate on legislation that would overturn the military ban on openly gay troops known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". Bennett and Crapo voted No, while Reid and Udall voted Yes. Orrin Hatch inexplicably did not cast a vote. Read roll call vote HERE.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not taken an official position on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".

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