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Former Vice President Dick Cheney, a hero to conservatives for criticizing Mr. Obama’s counterterrorism policies, all but endorsed ending the ban on ABC News last month.

“I think society has moved on,” said Mr. Cheney, who enforced the ban as President George H.W. Bush’s defense secretary. “I think it’s partly a generational question. I’m reluctant to second-guess the military in this regard, because they’re the ones that got to make the judgment in how these policies affect the military capability of our units.”

Mr. Cheney said “that first requirement you have to look at all the time is whether or not they’re capable of achieving their mission and does the policy change — i.e., putting gays in the force affect their ability to perform their mission. And when the chiefs come forward and say we can do it, it strikes me that it’s time to reconsider the policy, and I think Admiral Mullen said that.”

Adm. Mullen told Congress last month that he supports repealing the ban, but the chiefs of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps withheld support during congressional testimony last week. They said they want to await the results of a study ordered by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on how to integrate open gays and its impact on the force. The Marine Corps and Army chief expressed deep reservations about ending the ban.

“I think the current policy works,” Gen. James T. Conway, the Marine Corps commandant, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. “My best military advice to this committee, to the secretary, to the president, would be to keep the law such as it is.”

Said Ms. Donnelly, “The other chiefs are coming forward and are not following the keynote testimony of Adm. Mullen. Our side now is only just starting to get visible. The other side has been out there all along. Now that the hearings are being held, there is a new dynamic.”

Some of the issues that social conservatives are raising: Will military chaplains be called on to perform ceremonies that violate their beliefs? Will there be mandatory sensitivity training? What will children be taught about homosexuality in the armed forces schools system?

“If our military is now forced to affirm homosexual behavior, it will for the first time in history espouse a military policy that is completely at odds with the morality expressed by many of its chaplains,” the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative legal rights group, said in a Feb. 18 letter to Mr. Gates.

The coalition is now developing an Internet ad campaign. The Family Research Council has started a petition under the heading “Prevent the Sexualization of our Armed Forces.”

“The concerns of our soldiers about a gay military are not based on irrational prejudice, but on legitimate worries about the consequences of increased sexual tension, sexual harassment, and even sexual assault on morale and unit cohesion,” the council’s president, Tony Perkins, wrote at Human Events. “Such problems in turn would threaten the readiness of the force.”