WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave lukewarm support Tuesday to a White House-backed plan for a congressional vote as early as this week to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law against gays serving openly in the military. MR. Gates indicated he’d prefer more time to study the sweeping change before Congress acts.
Mr. Gates “continues to believe that ideally the DOD review should be completed before there is any legislation” changing the law, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Tuesday.
A compromise worked out Monday between the White House and some Democratic lawmakers is expected to lead to a vote in Congress to repeal the 1993 law as early as this week, though it would not go into effect until the military says it’s ready.
The bill’s chances of passing Congress are not clear, as Republicans would oppose it and many Democrats say they aren’t sure.
Mr. Gates had asked Congress to hold off until after Dec. 1, so he could have time to study the issue, and was backed by President Obama.
The White House announced late Monday that it would support the legislation because it wouldn’t go into effect until the military says it’s ready.
Mr. Gates “can accept the language in the proposed amendment,” Mr. Morrell said.
The lukewarm endorsement isn’t expected to win over conservative Democrats, particularly those in the Senate who say they want to wait before moving to repeal.
Rep. Patrick J. Murphy, Pennsylvania Democrat, an Iraq war veteran, was expected to introduce the legislation as an amendment to a defense policy bill that the House will debate on Thursday. Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, was expected to offer the bill in the Senate as part of the same defense policy bill.
Gay rights groups are urging quick congressional approval of the legislation, which would formally repeal the ban but allow the Pentagon to continue to study how to implement the new policy.
“Without a repeal vote by Congress this year, the Pentagon’s hands are tied and the armed forces will be forced to continue adhering to the discriminatory ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law,” says Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
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