***UPDATE 3PM*** The Senate has now passed legislation ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The final vote was 65-31.
WASHINGTON -- The Senate voted 63-33 on Saturday to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell, defeating a 17-year policy of banning gay and lesbian service members from serving openly in the military.
Five Republicans crossed the aisle to vote against the policy: Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio).
The Senate vote is a vindication of Obama's decision to push for congressional repeal as opposed to unilateral executive action, though activists note he could have done both. The Senate will make a final vote on ending the policy at 3 p.m.
"The important thing today is that 63 senators were on the right side of history," Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, told HuffPost, adding he sees the bill as a "stepping stone to further advances for the gay and lesbian community."