Updated at 2:07 p.m. on December 3.
Sen. Scott Brown said today he supports repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy against gays serving openly in the military, breaking with much of the Republican Caucus but hewing to the more progressive politics of his home state.
Brown, a lieutenant colonel in the Judge Advocate General's Corps, said last spring he would vote against repeal -- until the Department of Defense completed its review of the impact lifting the ban would have on the military and how best to implement the change in policy.
That review was released to Congress and the public Tuesday and presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee at hearings today and Thursday.
Brown said he made up his mind after consulting with military officials and conditioned his support, based on Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s recommendation that gays would be allowed to serve openly only after ensuring a smooth implementation.
Brown has solicited close associates for their thoughts on the vote, a potentially pivotal one for him as he heads into an unexpected 2012 re-election fight in Massachusetts. He opposes gay marriage but has said the matter is settled in his home state, where it was legalized.
“I pledged to keep an open mind about the present policy on 'don’t ask, don’t tell.' Having reviewed the Pentagon report, having spoken to active and retired military service members, and having discussed the matter privately with Defense Secretary Gates and others, I accept the findings of the report and support repeal based on the secretary’s recommendations that repeal will be implemented only when the battle effectiveness of the forces is assured and proper preparations have been completed,” Brown said in a statement issued by his office.
“I have been in the military for 31 years and counting, and have served as a subordinate and as an officer,” he said. “As a legislator, I have spent a significant amount of time on military issues. During my time of service, I have visited our injured troops at Walter Reed and have attended funerals of our fallen heroes. When a soldier answers the call to serve, and risks life or limb, it has never mattered to me whether they are gay or straight. My only concern has been whether their service and sacrifice is with pride and honor.”
Local considerations have Brown, hailed as the vanguard of this year’s GOP gains, walking a challenging line – both a hero to the right for knocking off a heavily favored Democrat for the seat the late Edward Kennedy held for 47 years, and squeezed back home by the prevailing forces of the Democratic majority. He remains the state’s most popular politician in the polls.
Outgoing Massachusetts Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei, the openly gay Republican lieutenant governor’s candidate this year, served with Brown in the state Senate, and called the announcement “a smart move” and “representative of his constituency.”
“I think the great majority of people in the state support equality, especially when it comes to treating people fairly in the armed forces,” said Tisei. “To the extent that he’s in favor of it, I’d say that he’s pretty much in synch with the overwhelming number of people in the state.”
“Nationally, the party’s headed there anyways,” Tisei said. “In order for Republicans to win beyond their base, they have to start reaching out to other groups.”