Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992 with the strong support of the LGBT community and allies who believed that his election would usher in an era when gays and lesbians could serve openly in the military.
Instead, supporters of equality and of strategies to assure that the military attracts the best and the brightest got the noxious "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" compromise, which supposedly allowed closeted gays and lesbians to serve in the military but in fact became a new platform for discrimination.
"Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" lasted through Clinton’s presidency and George Bush’s.
But, now, after two decades of organizing, campaigning and lobbying, "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" has been rejected—and with it the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the US military.
In an indication of how far the movement for LGBT rights has come, a bipartisan Senate vote of 63 to 31 to repeal "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" and lift the ban.
“Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend,” President Obama declared after the Saturday afternoon vote. “By ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.”
Senate Democrats and a handful of Republicans early on Saturday broke the filibuster that had blocked final action on the repeal move.
The day saw an embarrassing final push by Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, to demagogue the issue, but even Republicans had stopped listening to the sputtering defeated presidential candidate.
When the final vote came, Senate Democrats and independents Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders were joined not just by Republicans who have tended to be sympathetic to LGBT rights—Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—but also by Richard Burr of North Carolina, John Ensign of Nevada, Mark Kirk of Illinois and George Voinovich of Ohio.