Democratic Senators cheered Defense Secretary Robert Gates announcement Thursday that he would ease enforcement rules of dont ask, dont tell, a policy that bans gays from serving openly. Todays announcement is an important step on the path to a complete repeal of dont ask, dont tell, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) said. Lieberman is the lead sponsor of legislation that would overturn the controversial policy enacted in 1993 during the Clinton administration. While Gates and President Barack Obama have called for a full repeal, Republicans and some moderate Democrats have said they do not want to take action until a yearlong Pentagon review into the effects of rolling back the policy is completed. This shows that our military can implement policies to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation while preserving our highest military standards, Lieberman said. The responsibility now rests with Congress and the president to act swiftly to repeal this discriminatory law.Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who has said he wants to include a moratorium on DADT in the defense authorization bill, also praised Gates announcement that the Pentagon would not open investigations into the sexual orientation of military members based on rumors or anonymous complaints. Gates said that third-party testimony would not be allowed in open investigations and that high-ranking officers would have to review all cases. I think it is unconscionable to continue to discharge service members under this law when the commander-in-chief and the nations senior military officer have called for its repeal, and that is why I believe, at a minimum, we should suspend discharges based solely on sexual orientation while the study is completed this year, Levin said.
Following the speeches from elected officials, the crowd stands at long tables as they dig into BBQ, brunswick stew, cadillac rice at the Law Enforcement Cookout at Wayne Dasher's pond house in Glennville, Ga., on Thursday, April 17, 2014.