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Bill ending ban on gays expected to pass panel

Bill ending ban on gays expected to pass panel

Supporters of a bill that would allow gays to serve openly in the U.S. military worked on Wednesday to marshal the political support needed to end the 17-year-old ban known as "don't ask, don't tell," but the outcome was in doubt.
Landmark votes in the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee were expected to come as early as Thursday.
"This one will go down to the wire, and it won't be over until the vote," said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for Human Rights Campaign.
A breakthrough occurred in the Senate committee Wednesday when Sen. Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat, announced he would swing behind the measure. His decision came after a provision was included that would let the military decide when and how to implement the change in personnel policy.
"In a military which values honesty and integrity, this policy encourages deceit," Nelson said Wednesday.
The bill would still face scrutiny by the full Senate, where 60 votes are usually needed to overcome Republican objections, and the House, where Democratic leaders were surveying party members Wednesday to gauge support.
But an endorsement by the Senate committee would be a crucial first step. The measure's chances were enhanced by a move to tuck it into a broader defense bill that authorizes billions of dollars in spending on U.S. troops. The bill typically includes popular provisions like a pay raise for the military.
"We are increasingly confident about the (bill) and that this could very well be a historic week in the United States Congress," said Marshall Wittmann, a spokesman for Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent, who is co-sponsoring the legislation.
In the House, Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy was expected to introduce the legislation as an amendment to the defense authorization bill.
While Murphy said he had enough votes to pass it, some lawmakers _ including Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor _ threatened to pull their support from the entire defense bill if it did.
Taylor has been a staunch supporter of the annual defense bill for years. But spokesman Ethan Rabin said Wednesday that he feels strongly enough to vote against the massive spending bill if the measure were included.
The legislation was a compromise between the White House and a small group of liberal lawmakers _ including Lieberman and Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat _ who fear that efforts to lift the ban would be thwarted if Republicans take control of either the House or the Senate after elections in November.
Nelson said a caveat calling for the military to decide the particulars of implementing the policy was key to his support because it "removes politics from the process" and ensures repeal is "consistent with military readiness and effectiveness."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he supports repeal but would prefer that Congress wait to vote until he can talk to the troops and chart a path forward. A study ordered by Gates is due on Dec. 1.


Updated : 2021-04-19 15:22 GMT+08:00