Celebrities enlist followers in lobbying Congress on 'Don't ask, don't tell' vote

Celebrities have emerged as an unexpected force in the push to repeal the military's longstanding "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy toward gays serving openly in the miliary, which the Senate will vote on Tuesday attached to the defense reauthorization bill.

No one has drawn more attention to the debate than the edgy entertainer Lady Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, who has used social media to directly correspond with lawmakers, share videos encouraging repeal, and launch a phone-in campaign from constituents.

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Lady Gaga is going to Maine with veterans on Monday as part of a grass-roots push to convince Sens. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsHealthcare wish lists: What moderates, conservatives want Overnight Healthcare: GOP infighting erupts over bill | How Republican governors could bring down ObamaCare repeal | Schumer asks Trump to meet with Dems GOP infighting erupts over healthcare bill MORE (R-Maine) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) to help break Sen. John McCainJohn McCainOvernight Defense: Senate panel passes defense policy bill | House panel presses on with markup | Trump officials say WH statement prevented Syria chemical attack | NATO pledges to raise spending Senate panel passes 0B defense policy bill GOP infighting erupts over healthcare bill MORE's (R-Ariz.) attempts to filibuster the 2011 defense authorization bill. Lady Gaga announced the event over Twitter.

Last week, in a move that would have been unimaginable a few years ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDems face identity crisis Heller under siege, even before healthcare Charles Koch thanks Harry Reid for helping his book sales MORE (D-Nev.) responded directly to Lady Gaga over Twitter, informing her (and her 6 million-plus followers) of this Tuesday's planned vote. Reid wrote to the singer's Twitter handle, @ladygaga, "There is a vote on #DADT next week. Anyone qualified to serve this country should be allowed to do so." He also added a link to his campaign's website.  

Gaga also has communicated directly with Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSenate Democrats: ObamaCare repeal fight isn't over yet Bipartisan senators seek to boost expertise in military justice system Mattis gaining power in Trump’s Cabinet MORE (D-N.Y.) on Twitter. After seeing a video on YouTube Friday wherein Gaga tried to reach Gillibrand by phone (her voicemail box was full), Gillibrand reached out to Gaga on Twitter, writing, "Thx for calling. I couldn't agree more and am helping lead the fight to repeal DADT. Do you have a moment to talk later today?" It is unclear whether Gaga and Gillibrand have spoken personally about the issue.

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has also waded into the debate during the lead-up to Tuesday's vote. Simmons wrote an op-ed in The Huffington Post urging the Senate to repeal the longstanding policy, calling it a "broken law" and a "destructive form of torture." 

This isn't the first time celebrities have attempted to influence politics, either with vocal activism or with their thick wallets. But the personal back-and-forth communications and the huge numbers speak to Lady Gaga's status as one of the country's most popular entertainers. As of Sunday morning, more than 1.2 million people had viewed a seven-minute video Gaga recorded in which she appeals directly to GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellValerie Jarrett slams GOP for not including women in healthcare discussions Healthcare wish lists: What moderates, conservatives want Top GOP lawmaker questions tax break for wealthy in healthcare plan MORE (Ky.), James InhofeJames InhofeSenators urge Trump to do right thing with arms sales to Taiwan McCain strikes back as Trump’s chief critic Turbulence for Trump on air traffic control MORE (Okla.), and Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsOvernight Regulation: Trump pick would swing labor board to GOP | House panel advances bill to slow ozone regs | Funding bill puts restrictions on financial regulators Overnight Tech: Trump targets Amazon | DHS opts for tougher screening instead of laptop ban | Dem wants FBI to probe net neutrality comments | Google fine shocks tech DOJ hosts Pride party honoring transgender student from bathroom case MORE (Ala.). 

Another 65,000 people have watched a YouTube video in which two young women -- with a Lady Gaga poster in the background -- in Colorado call Sen. Michael BennetMichael BennetDems step up attacks on GOP ObamaCare bill Trump welcomes Gorsuch on first Supreme Court visit Why higher education is in need of regulatory relief MORE's (D-Colo.) office in Washington and leave a voicemail on "Don't ask, don't tell."

The outcome of Tuesday's vote is still uncertain, and GOP senators have threatened to filibuster the huge defense spending bill if DADT repeal is included in it. 

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a pro-repeal advocacy group, told NPR on Saturday, "The vote will be close, and the reality is that no one knows with any certainty — including Reid and McConnell — how this is going to turn out."

Roxana Tiron contributed to this report

This story was updated at 7:45 p.m.