Senators to call for full-court press on 'Don't ask, don't tell' repeal

Some of the chief supporters of repealing the ban on openly gay people serving in the military are upping their pressure on Congress to scrap the law this year.

Nine senators will be joined by the nation’s most prominent gay rights organizations on Thursday to make the case that Congress should repeal the Clinton-era law, known as “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” as part of the massive 2011 defense authorization bill.

Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Roland Burris (D-Ill.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.) will hold a press conference at the Capitol Visitors Center at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday. They will be joined by representatives from the Human Rights Campaign; the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network; Servicemembers United; the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and the Third Way.

Repeal still faces an uphill battle in Congress because of opposition from key Republicans, including Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who said he would filibuster a defense bill that contains the provision. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a key supporter of repeal, said that he would hold hearings immediately after the Pentagon releases a report on the implications of repealing the ban. That report is due Dec. 1.

The report and hearings could breathe some life into the efforts to repeal the ban, but much depends on how long Congress will be in session in December and whether there will be enough time to iron out differences on the bill with the House. Also, Republican opposition to including repeal in the defense bill is also not likely to ease up over the next few weeks.

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