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Repeal it now ; Senate must act on new chance to drop 'don't ask, don't tell'

The House of Representatives has voted again to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" indignity that should have been dismantled by now. The matter now moves to the Senate, which needs to procrastinate no longer. A new system to let gays serve openly in the military is inevitable, and Senate dithering only protects a flawed policy.

Senate Republicans -- happy to obstruct the president's agenda on every front -- have allowed a number of important matters to pile up, an arms treaty with Russia among them. That treaty deserves action. So does "don't ask, don't tell." Sliding it into next year relegates it to a lesser status it does not deserve.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has encouraged the Senate to lift the ban on gays serving openly, so he can "carefully and responsibly" alter the policy rather than risk an abrupt shift triggered by the courts. A report made public recently shows the Pentagon could end "don't ask, don't tell" with little change to military effectiveness. In that vein, a Pentagon survey found about 70 percent of active-duty soldiers and sailors said that serving with an openly gay colleague would have a positive impact, or no impact at all.

Ending discrimination against gays in the military follows the direction of human rights, in the same way that integration of the military followed the direction of human rights. In fact, the U.S. military in the latter half of the 20th century eventually became a model to be emulated in providing leadership opportunities to people of color. Certainly, the argument that it was OK to discriminate -- because blacks and whites serving together would somehow harm the cohesion of our fighting forces -- was revealed as nonsense.

Then and now, democratic principles are at play, and they are being ignored by those who would continue to discriminate against gays in the armed forces. Or maybe, what those critics really oppose is President Obama's ability to effect any change at all in moving this country forward. But if democratic ideals and individual rights would sway the critics, we ask this: Is the greatest democracy on Earth served well by denying someone the honor of serving in the armed forces simply because they are honest about their sexual orientation? It's time to get this done.

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