WASHINGTON -- Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., voted Saturday to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., also voted for repeal of the ban, ending weeks of speculation.
Ensign was one of eight Republicans who voted for repeal.
"It is my firm belief that any American wishing to fight and potentially die for this great country ought to be able to do so regardless of sexual orientation," Ensign said in a statement after the vote. "These fine individuals should not have to hide who they are. I support the repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' for this very reason.
"I have studied this issue and the testimony of our military leaders and service members, and have reached the conclusion that this policy can be overturned in a responsible way so as not to harm our combat effectiveness."
While he voted for repeal, Ensign earlier joined other Republicans in trying to filibuster the issue. He said afterward that his vote on the procedure was meant as a protest against the Democratic strategy of not allowing GOP amendments.
Jubilant Democratic leaders and gay rights advocates in Nevada credited Reid, the majority leader who maneuvered the Senate into a position to take Saturday's vote after it appeared that opponents had successfully blocked repeal of the military policy.
"Though the opponents of equality did everything possible to keep delaying this vote through cynical political maneuvers, Senator Reid's extraordinary leadership ensured that they did not succeed," said the statement issued by leaders of the Stonewall Democratic organizations in Nevada.
Reid said: "This is one of those moments in our history when we stepped up and squared our policies with the values this nation was founded upon. Throughout its history, our military has shown a remarkable ability to adapt to change, and our military leaders have advised us that this change is both important and necessary."
STEPHENS WASHINGTON BUREAU