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“I think it’s important, as we look to this change, that it be done in a way that doesn’t disrupt the force at a time where it’s under a lot of stress,” Adm. Mullen told the Military Times in May. “And that, to me, means in a measured, deliberate way, over some time — to be determined. And I don’t know what that would be.”

Kevin Nix, spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which is spearheading the repeal effort, said the House bill now has 182 co-sponsors, still short of a majority.

“We’re just trying to get to 218 to show that the bill is ready,” said Mr. Nix, who added that senators plan to introduce a bill shortly.

“We expect a bill introduction for the first time in 16 years,” he said. “We definitely expect a hearing this year. There are still things that need to happen, but we are definitely on the brink of a bill in the Senate. … We want repeal done in 2010. Done, to the president’s desk for a signature.”

Rep. Patrick J. Murphy, Pennsylvania Democrat, is leading the repeal campaign in the House. Kate Hansen, his spokeswoman, said he has commitments from 16 members in addition to the 182 co-sponsors.

That would bring him to 198 votes, still well short of a majority. But Ms. Hansen said Mr. Murphy has not spoken to all House members.

Gay rights groups cite recent polls that show the public now supports repealing the ban, unlike in 1993, when polls showed the opposite. That year, Congress stopped Mr. Clinton’s bid to change what was then only a regulation. He ended up signing the ban into law.

Gallup reported in June that 58 percent of the conservatives it polled favored allowing openly gay men and women to serve. Overall, 69 percent of adults support ending the ban, Gallup said.

“This year, it’s the first time that polling has picked up that a majority of conservatives favor gay people serving openly,” Mr. Nix said.

Elaine Donnelly, who heads the Center for Military Readiness and argues in favor of the ban, pointed a reporter toward a recent article she wrote for the American Thinker.

“Consistently small numbers and percentages of people discharged due to homosexuality contradict any claim that a national security emergency justifies repeal of the law,” she wrote.

“And it is not convincing to hold up the small, dissimilar militaries of foreign nations, none of which have adopted the extreme agenda being proposed for our military, as role models for America’s forces. Nor does it help to ignore the stated opinions of more than 1,150 retired flag and general officers and current military personnel.”

The Pentagon discharged 633 men and women under the ban in fiscal 2008, which ended Sept. 30, 2008.