John McCain's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Last Stand

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In the end, eight Republican senators cast their votes to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces, repealing the 17-year-old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) did not join them and used his time on the Senate floor Saturday to stand athwart history yelling stop.

"Today is a very sad day," McCain announced, detailing his continuing opposition to allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to be open about their sexuality.

"There will be high-fives over all the liberal bastions of America," he predicted, from "the elite schools that bar military recruiters from campus" to "the salons of Georgetown" and the "talk shows" where people -- "most of whom have never have served in the military" -- will crow over the law's repeal.

Allowing gays to serve openly in the Marines would prove a potentially deadly distraction McCain said, quoting from a Marine Corps Commandant warning, "and I don't want to permit that opportunity to happen."

Liberal blogs ThinkProgress and FireDogLake have highlighted some of the excerpts of his remarks.

Eight Republican Senators voted in favor of repeal of DADT: Scott Brown (Mass.); Richard Burr (NC); Susan Collins (of Maine, and a co-sponsor of the repeal effort); John Ensign (Nevada); Mark Kirk (Illinois); Lisa Murkowski (Alaska); Olympia Snowe (Maine) and George Voinovich of Ohio.

McCain's vigorous opposition to the DADT repeal is not the first time he's found himself swimming against the tide of history. As a congressman in 1983, he voted against the creation of a federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -- a vote he later regretted.

"On the Martin Luther King issue, we all learn, OK? We all learn," he told NBC in 1999, discussing his vote. "I will admit to learning, and I hope that the people that I represent appreciate that, too. I voted in 1983 against the recognition of Martin Luther King....I regret that vote."

This time, however, McCain is in the mainstream of his party in casting the socially conservative vote; in 1983 the majority of House Republicans voted in favor of the creation of the MLK holiday.

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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