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social sciences

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Don't Ask, Don't Tell  
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Perhaps the most surprising and effective of the new activists is pop music sensation Stephani Germanotti, better known as Lady Gaga. Long known as an ardent supporter of gay rights, frequently appearing at gay events such as HRC dinners and the 2009 National Equality March, Lady Gaga became especially identified with DADT repeal in 2010, when she was escorted to the MTV Music Video Awards show by former soldiers who had been discharged under the law. She has also made YouTube videos urging her fans to lobby for repeal and even interrupted a tour to appear at a rally in Maine to pressure the state's two Republican senators to break a filibuster against repeal.

Steps Toward Repeal

In the spring of 2010, activists became increasingly frustrated at the prospect of having to wait for yet another Pentagon study before the DADT policy was finally dismantled. In addition, many suspected that the President and Secretary Gates were not acting in good faith.

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The suspicion was that Gates had agreed to support repeal only after exacting a promise from Obama to delay legislation until after the study scheduled for completion in December 2010. That in effect would mean that repeal would not be considered until 2011, by a Congress that would likely contain far more Republicans than did the 2009-2010 Congress. Many political analysts believed (correctly, as it turned out) that in 2011 there would be fewer supporters of repeal in Congress than there were in 2010.

After several acts of civil disobedience, and even the heckling of President Obama at fundraising events, activists pleaded with the President to keep his promise to repeal DADT in 2010 and to exert control over the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, which was defending the policy in court.

These calls were met mostly with silence from the White House. In response, many leaders and bloggers urged glbtq voters to withhold support from the Democratic Party if action on repeal were not forthcoming.

It is believed that Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin in effect forced the President's hand. Pelosi and Levin urged the President to support their efforts to repeal the policy in 2010. Allegedly, they told him that they were close to having sufficient votes to repeal DADT and were planning to proceed with legislation regardless of his support. If they succeeded without his support, he would get no credit. If they failed, he would be blamed.

In response, the President and Secretary Gates tepidly endorsed a compromise in which Congress would vote to authorize repeal of the ban subject to the December study and to assurances from the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs that the repeal would not affect military readiness, unit cohesion, and recruitment and retention.

Even after agreeing to the compromise, however, Secretary Gates and some of the military leaders campaigned against it.

Nevertheless, on May 27, 2010 the Senate Armed Services Committee endorsed the compromise on a 16-12 vote and the House of Representatives voted in favor of the compromise on a vote of 234 to 194.

However, soon after these important votes, Republican senators, led by John McCain of Arizona, vowed to filibuster the repeal of DADT when the Defense Appropriations bill came to the Senate, thus requiring 60 votes to allow the amendment authorizing repeal to be considered.

On September 21, 2010, Senate Majority Leader Reid moved to invoke cloture to kill the Republican filibuster. This motion received 57 votes, three short of the necessary 60 votes. All the Republicans and two Democrats (Senators Pryor and Lincoln of Arkansas) voted to sustain the filibuster, thus dooming the attempt to repeal DADT to failure.

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