The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to end 'don't ask, don't tell,' the 1993 policy that bars openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the military.
The vote followed passage earlier by a Senate committee that took a first step toward ending the policy that allows gays to serve in the military only if they don't disclose their sexual orientation.
In a 16-12 vote, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a provision to repeal the 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the only Republican to vote for the amendment to a defense spending bill, said it passed after "vigorous and aggressive debate."
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who promoted the measure with Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said: "It's time for this policy to go. It doesn't reflect America's best values of equal opportunity, and it's not good for the military."
Repealing the 1993 law, a priority of gay rights groups that President Barack Obama has pledged to pursue, still faces a tough road.
The full House took up the identical amendment late Thursday amid fierce opposition, particularly among Republicans who cited letters from military service chiefs urging Congress to hold off on the legislation until the Pentagon completes a study of the impact on military life and readiness.
The measure could face a filibuster when it reaches the Senate floor.
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