"We've cleared the pathway to right a major injustice," Sen. Al Franken said.
WASHINGTON - Minutes after the Senate voted to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," St. Paul's Wes Davey got a text message from his son serving in Afghanistan: "They're all happy about it over there," Davey said.
Davey, a gay veteran who has been an outspoken critic of "don't ask" since he retired in 2005, was celebrating with repeal supporters in Minnesota and across the country as the final hurdle to repealing the 17-year-old law was overcome with Saturday's vote.
"It's been an emotional roller coaster," Davey said. "I'm just absolutely excited. It will make a big difference for the whole military."
Minnesota's senators, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, both voted to repeal the law, which cleared the Senate 65-31. As the final vote was read aloud in the Senate chamber, Franken nodded his head in approval.
"Today, we've cleared the pathway to right a major injustice," Franken said. "The American people are ready to end this law, the military is ready to end it, and above all it's just the right thing to do."
Trista Matascastillo, a veterans' advocate who chairs the DFL Veterans Caucus, said the repeal was "long overdue."
"It's fantastic," said Matascastillo, a veteran who served for 16 years. "It's been ridiculous to have such a law in the military. We've been serving alongside men and women of all different preferences all along."
Eden Prairie resident Jacob Reitan, who launched a campaign in 2006 to try enlisting as an openly gay soldier, said that many of the 14,000 veterans who were kicked out under the law will be eager to reenlist, and some of those who never joined because of it will reconsider.
"You're going to see a real uptick in recruitment numbers as a result of the ban being lifted," Reitan said.
He acknowledged that the past few months have been frustrating for repeal supporters because of the Senate's inability to muster enough votes to overcome a filibuster. But once the Senate voted to advance the bill early Saturday with a 63-33 vote to end debate and proceed to a vote, repeal was "done and sealed," he said.
"It's a great day for our country, and it's a great day for the gay and lesbian community," he said. "The most discriminatory law on the books today is finally coming to an end."
Jeremy Herb • 202-408-2723