Lieberman to introduce ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal bill lauded by White House

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) announced Monday that he will introduce legislation to repeal a controversial law that bans openly gay people from serving in the military. 

While it is yet unclear whether Lieberman’s legislation will mandate a timeline for the repeal of the law known as “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” the White House on Monday backed his efforts to introduce the bill. 

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“We have stated throughout this process that the only durable way for this [repeal] to happen is through legislation,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters. “We think that Sen. Lieberman’s proposal is obviously an important step in that legislation.” 

Lieberman, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, made his plans known through an exclusive interview with the New York Daily News and also issued a statement on his intentions. Lieberman was asked by the White House and gay-rights advocates to sponsor the legislation, according to the Daily News. 

Lieberman’s bill would be the first repeal legislation to be introduced in the Senate in years. The House already has a longstanding repeal bill sponsored by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) and co-sponsored by 187 lawmakers. 

The leaders of the military services are expected to answer questions on the repeal of the law as they testify in Congress on the services’ 2011 budget requests. 

Meanwhile, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), an outspoken supporter of scrapping the law, on Monday introduced a resolution expressing the sense of the House that “Don’t ask, don’t tell” should be repealed in 2010. Hastings’s resolution has 24 co-sponsors, including Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.). 

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said that he would work with the Pentagon and Congress to repeal the controversial law. However, he did not indicate a timeline. 

Earlier this month, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates threw their weight behind the repeal of the law. Gates and Mullen said the Pentagon needed more than a year to study how to implement the repeal across the military services. 

Both Gates and Mullen pleaded with lawmakers for time to implement the repeal, but also stressed that a final decision rests with Congress. They noted the law cannot be repealed through executive action.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the Armed Services panel chairman who supports the repeal, expressed some concern that it would take the Pentagon a long time to implement it.

He indicated the 2011 defense authorization bill could be a good vehicle to carry at least a moratorium of the law until it is repealed.