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But that’s still not soon enough for those who favor lifting the gay ban.

“I do think that a year is too long,” Aubrey Sarvis, who heads the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, told PBS. “It has been considered for some time. In fact, the military has been studying this for 50 years.”

A House aide involved in the repeal effort said Democrats see no reason there cannot be a vote to repeal as the study is being conducted. At this point, most Democrats seem in favor of ending the ban, while most Republicans think the current policy is working.

“Supporters of ‘dont ask, dont tell’ accuse those who would change it of trying to impose a social agenda on the military,” Mr. Levin said. “But at this point in our history, when gays and lesbians openly work and succeed in every aspect of our national life, it is the ‘dont ask, dont tell’ policy that reflects a social agenda out of step with the everyday experience of most Americans.”

Gays received another boost Wednesday when Colin L. Powell, who supported the ban when he was Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman in 1993, announced he backs Mr. Gates’ study approach. But he stopped short of saying the law should be changed.

“I strongly believe that this is a judgment to be made by the current military leadership and the commander in chief,” Mr. Powell said. “It is also a judgment Congress must make. For the past two years, I have expressed the view that it was time for the law to be reviewed by Congress. I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week.”