WASHINGTON, D.C., December 20, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The U.S. Senate voted on Saturday to repeal the 17-year legislation that codified the United States’ military’s longstanding ban on military service by open homosexuals.

The Senate repealed the ban, commonly referred by a corresponding Pentagon enforcement policy called “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT), in a 65–31 vote. Eight Republicans broke a pledge with their caucus not to vote on any Senate business until measures were passed to prevent tax rates rising at the end of 2010, and to finance the federal government into next year.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had scheduled the vote on Saturday before negotiations were completed on the “continuing resolution” that would fund the federal government into March 2011, and avoid a government shutdown.

The eight Republicans who joined Democrats in passing the repeal were Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.), Sen. George Voinovich (Ohio), Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.), Sen. John Ensign (Nev.) and Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (Maine).

Only Burr and Ensign did not vote with the six other Republicans who joined Democrats in a 63-33 vote to break the GOP filibuster led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia skipped out on Saturday’s vote, citing a “family holiday.” Manchin had previously voted against repeal, although he did say that repeal should probably happen at a later time.

Since the Senate was voting on a “privileged motion” from the U.S. House, there was no possibility of having extended debate or amending the bill. The House passed its own version of the repeal on Wednesday in a 250-175 vote.

President Obama released a statement as soon as the cloture vote was announced, saying, “It is time to close this chapter in our history.”

“It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed,” he continued.

The president is expected to sign the repeal legislation sometime this week before Christmas.

Conservative and pro-family leaders blasted the vote.

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, said that Congress ignored the findings of the Pentagon’s working group report that repeal could severely harm the U.S. military’s all-volunteer force and drive down troop retention.

She cited one finding that indicated that a combined 32 percent of Army combat arms troops said they would leave sooner or think about leaving sooner than planned, and that nearly half of Marines would do the same, if “don’t ask” were repealed.

“The gradual loss of so many combat troops and what the report described as ‘only 12 percent’ of families likely to decline re-enlistment could put remaining troops in greater danger, and break the All-Volunteer Force,” said Donnelly.

“Such findings should make it impossible for President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen to ‘certify’ that no harm will be done by implementation of their own plans for repeal,” she added. “The president’s political promise to LGBT Left groups has been assigned highest priority, at the expense of Army and Marine combat troops whose voices were heard but ignored.”