Fighting the good fight

Last week's repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" was a long-overdue triumph for advocates who fought to overturn the discriminatory, 17-year policy of banning gay and lesbian service members from serving openly in the military.

Saturday's 65-31 Senate vote also was a big win for President Barack Obama, who had made repeal of the controversial policy a campaign pledge and who had been under fire from his liberal base for failing to deliver on this and other issues.

And closer to home, it was a victory for Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, a driving force in the repeal movement who, like Mr. Obama, has been enduring alienation of affections from his constituents. Without his efforts the measure wouldn't have come to a vote, much less been passed, and we applaud Sen. Lieberman and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, for championing this just cause.

Though it initially intended to protect gays and lesbians, "don't ask, don't tell" wound up unfairly targeting them and since its adoption in 1993 forced more than 13,000 troops to be discharged. This was bad from a human rights perspective as well as from a military standpoint, since personnel shortages during wartime have forced so many repeated deployments.

Sen. Lieberman's determination to reverse the policy may help redeem his reputation in his home state, with which he has had a love-hate relationship in recent years.

First elected to the Senate in 1988 as a liberal Democrat and coming within a whisker of becoming vice president as Al Gore's running mate in 2000, Mr. Lieberman had to run as an independent in 2006 after losing a party primary due in large part to his unrelenting support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This attitude compelled him ill-advisedly to support John McCain for president in 2008, and ironically the GOP senator from Arizona emerged as one of the most vocal opponents of "don't ask, don't tell."

Sen. Lieberman, who becomes Connecticut's senior senator Jan. 1 after Sen. Chris Dodd's retirement becomes official, has not yet said whether he will run for a fifth term in 2012 and has taken pains to distance his position on "don't ask, don't tell" from any decision on his political future.

Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, signaled last week he may be interested in running for Sen. Lieberman's seat, but it's too soon to say what bearing, if any, this will have.

Political jockeying aside, this newspaper is pleased to praise Sen. Lieberman for his position and his perseverance.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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