Yes, the legislation which will likely end up lifting the military ban has passed the Senate, the last hurdle before reaching President Obama's desk by a 65-31 vote. The more determinative cloture vote won by a slightly narrower margin.
This is great news, but before we get too excited, it's important to be aware of the fine print. Thanks to an email from Citizens from Legitimate Government, I found the bill's actual summary on the Senate website which follows:
This legislation would repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy prohibiting homosexuals from serving openly in the armed services by striking Section 654 of Title 10 of the USC. The repeal would take effect 60 days after the last of conditions a) and b) are fulfilled:
a) The Secretary of Defense receives the Comprehensive Review he requested on March 2, 2010 concerning implementing a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
b) Congress receives written certification from the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff stating that:
1) The President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the recommendations contained in the report and the report’s proposed plan of action.
2) The Department of Defense has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to implement the repeal.
3) Implementing all necessary modifications required to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” are consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.
c) Until all of the conditions described above are met, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will remain in effect.
d) Should the repeal be enacted, this law will not provide marriage or spousal benefits offered under Section 7 of Title 1 to the USC to homosexuals serving in the Armed Forces.
e) Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” does not create a private cause of action
At best, there will be some waiting while the military ban is in effect. ("Don't Ask, Don't Tell" always was a deceptive marketing name which tried to con people into thinking Bill Clinton's version of the military ban did not include witchhunts. In fact, that version of the ban was designed to increase the numbers of witchhunts.)
Now that we have gotten the disclaimers out of the way, it's useful to consider how we got here. To understand the path to repeal, it helps to know about the weird game of "Gay Chicken." The Urban Dictionary has a pretty good description of it, though I had only heard of it involving kissing myself.
A game played with straight people to see who has more balls, metaphorically. the game is played in several ways. The most simple, and weakest, is the kiss. One 'player' moves in for a sensual kiss until one of the 'players' backs off. I've seen this lead to tongues but someone will always pull away. Another way gay chicken is played is by groping the other 'players' genitals or breasts or anything you can get your hands on. The most common form of the game is gay pillow talk in which each interaction escalates until someone laughs or just can't respond. Lastly, 'players' can initiate dry humping sessions. Hardcore 'players' will use a combination of three tactics to win the game. Some have been known to even use all four tactics at once. This plan of attack is very tricky.
This pretty much describes the dynamic of Harry Reid, Barack Obama, and "moderate" Republicans in the Senate. They would put together a complex set of legislation and Senate rules for debate which included the military ban. Both sides would pretend that they would support it, but then the votes were never quite there. Each side would pretend that the other side had chickened out. They blamed each other while pretending that they supported ending the military ban.
I've heard that sometimes the "straight" guys will actually kiss when they play gay chicken because neither chickens out. (I suspect that those "straight guys" are mostly bisexual as are so many "straight guys.)
The game of chicken kept getting closer and closer. Each time, the excuses for failing to passing the legislation got feebler and more incomprehensible. Queer activists kept pushing to repeal the ban, which neither the Democrats or "moderate" Republicans really wanted to do. But, the politicians had thoroughly boxed themselves in with rhetoric that tried to make it sound like they opposed a widely unpopular policy while trying to make sure that policy stayed in effect.
Then, the tax cuts for the rich, tax increases for low income Americans deal passed. Liberals were understandably pissed with Obama and the rest of the Democrats. The party of the jackasses needed to show that they would push for something opposed by the majority of the politicians in the party of the rogue elephants. For liberals, lifting the military ban was the bone. "Moderate" Republicans also needed to do something to placate Northeastern moderates who don't like tax giveaways for the rich either.
For queers, it was a lot more than a bone.
It's about time.