December 16, 2010

Snowe supports repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' policy

By Rebekah Metzler
MaineToday Media State House Writer

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe said Wednesday she would support the repeal of the military policy that prevents gays from serving openly.

The announcement came as the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal the policy, known as 'don't ask, don't tell.'

"After careful analysis of the comprehensive report compiled by the Department of Defense and thorough consideration of the testimony provided by the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the service chiefs, I support repeal of the 'don't ask, don't tell' law," Snowe, R-Maine, said in a statement.

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., revived repeal efforts by sponsoring a standalone bill after a Senate vote on a larger bill that contained the provision failed last week.

Snowe has voted twice -- once in September and once last week -- against advancing the defense spending bill that included the 'don't ask' repeal, both times saying she opposed ending debate because she said Republicans had not been afforded time to air concerns or offer amendments.

She had also resisted weighing in on 'don't ask, don't tell' pending a military review of the policy, which was released Nov. 30.

In her statement, Snowe conditioned her support on lawmakers voting to continue funding the government and passing the tax cut compromise first.

Snowe also said it was "misguided judgment" to include the repeal of the controversial measure in the defense authorization bill in the first place.

"It is undeniable that we could have avoided this situation, where three weeks before the end of the legislative session we are without a national defense authorization bill for the first time in 48 years," she said. "The Senate should have considered -- and passed -- this critical $725 billion defense authorization bill in the spring, and then taken up 'don't ask, don't tell' on its own merits after the Defense Department's review was scheduled to be released."

Legislating repeal would also allow for a more orderly transition than if the law was overturned in the courts, Snowe said.

Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was the only Republican lawmaker to support repeal, when the original measure was passed out of committee last May.

She voted against moving the defense bill forward in September, but voted in support last week.

Rebekah Metzler -- 620-7016

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