WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives voted 234-194 Thursday, mostly along party lines, to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bars openly gay citizens from military service.
The Senate Armed Services Committee voted 16-12 to repeal the policy, as well.
The House's vote came shortly after 8 p.m. Mountain time, following a long day of debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, which identifies the funding and policies of the U.S. military.
Utah's lone Democratic congressman, Rep. Jim Matheson, voted for the repeal of the 17-year-old section of law.
"Anyone willing to put on a uniform and make that sacrifice deserves our respect," Matheson said Wednesday.
He said the amendment to the bill was written so that the repeal won't take effect until after the policy is reviewed by the U.S. Department of Defense.
The amendment was supported by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen.
During debates on other amendments throughout the day, House Republicans made a point to voice their disapproval of voting on a repeal until after the Defense Department could complete a survey of U.S. military members and leaders to find out how the repeal could affect them and troop cohesion.
Utah's four Republicans in Congress said it's too early for such a vote, and both Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz voted against the repeal.
"It is irresponsible for supporters of this effort to ram an amendment through Congress, in a panicked fashion, before the Department of Defense has had sufficient time to conduct a full review of the proposed change," Bishop said Wednesday before the amendment came to the floor.
Chaffetz said he's willing to have an open mind when it comes to changes in the policy, but he said this is not the time to make these types of changes.
It appears Democrats are trying to appease the gay community, he said.
Utah's senators, Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, both Republicans, said they felt the Defense Department should finish its review of the policy among servicemen and women before Congress votes.
This story was reported from Salt Lake City.
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