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Dixie opposed DADT repeal

By Hastings Wyman
Southern Political Report

December 28, 2010

Following the South’s long tradition of lagging behind the nation in supporting social change, be it civil rights for African Americans or equality for women, Dixie’s lawmakers in Congress formed a strong “anti-“ bloc opposing repeal of the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy that banned openly gay men and women from serving in the military.

The final vote in the Senate on December 18 sent the repeal measure to the President’s desk for his signature and is now law. The Senate roll call vote was a comfortable 66 for the bill to 31 against. Voting for the bill were 57 Democrats and 8 Republicans; voting against were 31 Republicans. All of the Southern Senators voted along party lines, except US Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), who voted for repeal.

In the House, nearly half – 92 of the 194 – votes against repeal were cast by Southern representatives. Most of Dixie’s anti’s were Republicans – 73, along with 17 Southern Democrats. Conversely, only 43 of the 234 yea votes were from the South – 40 Dixie Democrats and a mere 3 Republicans.

There were some Southern exceptions to the region’s majority opposition to DADT repeal. The biggest surprise was North Carolina’s US Sen. Richard Burr, whose conservative voting record (92 percent conservative, says the National Journal) belies this departure from GOP orthodoxy. In a statement released by Burr after his vote for repeal (though not against the cloture motion which allowed the vote), the North Carolina Republican said “Given the generational transition that has taken place in our nation, I feel that this policy is outdated and repeal is inevitable.” He did say he thought the timing – during a war – was wrong, thus he had voted earlier to invoke cloture.

Burr quickly came under fire from social conservatives. In an open letter to Burr issued by the Raleigh-based Christian Action League of North Carolina, the Rev. Mark Creech wrote, “We are feeling horribly betrayed,” arguing that “Homosexuality remains contrary to nature.”

The three House Republicans who voted for repeal were libertarian maverick Ron Paul (TX), Joseph Cao (LA), who – though he lost in November – represents New Orleans, which has a significant gay population; and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), who represents the Miami area, which has a politically active gay minority.

Dixie’s Democrats, though more conservative than their non-Southern counterparts, still stuck with their party’s liberal base, which includes a significant number of gay voters, and voted for repeal. Not a single Southern Democratic senator voted against repeal, including Virginia’s Jim Webb, a former Secretary of the Navy, who had earlier expressed reservations about gays serving openly in the military.

In the House, the Southern Democratic bloc voted for repeal by 40 to 17. All of the South’s Black Caucus votes were for repeal, with the exception of Sanford Bishop (D-GA), who narrowly escaped defeat (51 percent to 49 percent) by a conservative Republican in November. White Southern Democratic House members voted 27 for repeal to 16 to keep DADT. Among the 16 Southern Democrats opposing repeal was US Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC), who ran unsuccessfully as a moderate alternative against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for the post of House Majority Leader in the 112th Congress.



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