Bittersweet day for California’s Senators

California’s U.S. Senators are overjoyed that the U.S. Senate voted 65-31 to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy limiting gays’ and lesbians’ participation in the U.S. Armed Forces. It now goes to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

For the record, Senators Richard Burr, R-N.C., and John Ensign, R-Nev., voted against cloture on the DADT repeal, but then voted in favor of the repeal itself – perhaps having their political cake and eating it, too?

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., after the cloture vote:

“The first vote today to move forward with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was 63-33 to end discrimination against gay men and women in the United States military. Seventeen years ago, the vote was exactly the opposite, 33-63. One-third of support has changed to two-thirds of the United States Senate supporting the repeal of Don’t ask, Don’t Tell over the past seventeen years.

“I strongly believe that is emblematic of the change of thinking in the United States. Over these last years, gay Americans have established themselves as heroes, as professionals, as academicians, and as brave warriors for our country.

“There are millions of stories that demonstrate this, but I will share just a few that stand out. In 1975, I was there in San Francisco when a woman carrying a gun attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford. It was a gay man who grabbed her gun which deflected the shot aimed at our President.

“In 1982, I remember when a plane crashed on the 14th Street Bridge in Washington and passengers were on the verge of drowning in the ice-covered Potomac River. It was a gay man who jumped in the freezing water to save them.

“It was a gay woman serving as an Army medic in Iraq who saved the lives of innocent civilians who were critically wounded after a car bomb exploded in their midst. I can go on and on.

“Gays and lesbians are not the first group of Americans to be denied their civil rights. And they are not the first group to fight in service for the cherished freedom and equality which they have been denied.

“They have struggled long and hard to see this day. They have fought and died for their country, and they are out there on the battlefield today as we stand here debating whether they deserve their rights. I am proud to see this vote for them today.”

And from U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“This is a historic vote for equality, civil rights and a stronger America. This vote is a continuation of our nation’s march toward full equality for all.”

But both are disappointed that the DREAM Act – which would have provided a pathway to citizenship for undocumented students who go to college or serve in the military – fell five votes short of the 60 it needed in order for cloture to be invoked, debate to end and a final vote to be called.

Said Feinstein:

“I am deeply disappointed. I looked up in the galleries which were filled with bright young faces of young people whose only desire was to be good Americans – to better themselves, to become educated, to earn a living, to be willing to fight for this country, and be proud of the fact that they are American. They have no hope of becoming American without the DREAM Act.

“The DREAM Act is important to the United States. I have no doubt that this legislation will be debated on the Senate floor again. To the young people who watched this vote today and feel deep despair- keep fighting.

“For those that did not support this legislation, I ask that you think about the years that these bright young people will spend in limbo. These young people could be putting their education to good use but instead will be unable to realize their potential and give back to the country they consider home. I look forward to when I can cast my vote in favor of the DREAM Act again.”

And, from Boxer:

“It is a sad day for our country when we turn our backs on some of our best and brightest young people who grew up in America, love America and want to serve America.

“I commend the brave young men and women who have stepped forward at great personal risk to call America’s attention to this injustice, and I will not rest until the DREAM Act is the law of the land.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    DREAM on! It’s one thing to put illegal immigrants on the fast track to citizenship after enlisting in the armed forces. It’s quite another to reward them for seeking higher education when many of our state-supported colleges are struggling financially as are their legal students and applicants.

  • Iscariot

    So our citizen children can’t attend because there is no room?

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    1. I strongly believe anyone who is not in agreement with the Democratic party is: racist, obscenely rich and selfish, greedy, ignorant or sadly misinformed, stupid.
    2. I favor legislation that indicates correct and healthful behavior whether or not the citizen/resident is aware of the benefits.
    3. White men are the source of almost everything that is wrong in the world. When White men get together they run greedy multinational corporations that despoil the environment.
    4. The United Nations is the best hope for world peace. The UN is hated most by imperialists, colonialists, racists and greedy big corporations.
    5. The reason most of the Third World is impoverished is obvious– see above.
    6. Islam and socialism are terribly misunderstood and maligned in this country. Capitalism and Western faiths are either harmful or based on ignorance.
    7. I favor social engineering to assist minorities and working people–in other words, not people like me. My role is pointing the way. Ordinary people should be grateful to liberals and progressives.

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    RR: Since when have you become a liberal?

  • Common Tater

    I’m not interested in “bitter-sweet” days for our California senators. I want to see much more “bitter-bitter” days for them. The more, the better.

  • Elwood

    May wonders never cease!

    RR is a born again liberal!


  • John W

    We look at the DREAM act proposal as “rewarding” somebody. That’s the wrong spin, in my opinion. The issue is what to do with those who were brought here when they were as young as a few months, who have spent virtually their entire lives here, followed all the rules, performed well in school and, in many cases, been better “citizens” than some of us whose claim to the “reward” of citizenship is nothing more than our good fortune of having been born here. So, if we’re not going to offer a way for them to regularize their status here, what do those who oppose the idea want us to do? Ship them back to a place where, in practical terms, they have never been? Let them be zombie residents whose future is to drift from one day labor gig to another, even though they have demonstrated the potential to be much more — a teacher, a cop, a business owner or what have you? Seems to me that this is a total waste and a formula for creating all kinds of problems. To give them a path to normalcy is, in my view, not to reward them, but to serve our own enlightened self-interest. I know there are those who are at least somewhat sympathetic to the kids who serve in the military but who react negatively to the idea that completing a college education would be a path. I can understand that if we’re looking at this in the “reward” sense. But, again, isn’t in our self-interest for them to get the schooling of which they are capable, so that their existence here can be productive, rather than the opposite.

  • Elwood

    I’ve been reading so much bleeding heart liberal crap on here lately that I think it’s time to restate the handy dandy Elwood immigration control plan:

    1. If you’re not here, don’t come.

    2. If you’re not a citizen, go home.

    Any questions?

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    Elwood, tell that to our Founders who came from Europe with no Passport.

  • John W

    Considering where we are on the immigration issue, I imagine we’ll soon need to update the poem at the Statue of Liberty.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    DiFi’s touching tribute to America’s heroic sissies should finish off once and for all time the homophobes’ doubts about the physical courage of our homosexuals. The Senator is a homophile and proud of it.