WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday that he will call for a vote after Thanksgiving on legislation that would allow gays to serve openly in the military.
His announcement makes good on his pre-election promise to resurrect during the lame-duck session legislation that would repeal the 1993 law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
But it remains far from certain whether the legislation would have enough votes to pass. Several leading Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, have said they oppose lifting the ban.
“We need to repeal this discriminatory policy so that any American who wants to defend our country can do so,” Reid said.
The legislation would allow for the first time gay troops to acknowledge publicly their sexual orientation. However, the repeal of the current law would take effect after the president and his top military advisers certify that doing so would not hurt the military’s ability to fight.
The bill was considered a deal struck earlier this year between more liberal Democrats eager to change the law and the White House, under pressure by the Pentagon to give it more time to determine how to repeal the law without causing any backlash.
The provision is tucked into a broader defense policy bill that includes such popular programs as a pay raise for the troops, which gay rights groups hoped would help its chances of passing.
But when the bill reached the floor in September – just weeks before the midterm elections – Republicans united in objecting to its debate on procedural grounds. Reid insisted that few amendments be considered in the interest of time; Republicans said restricting debate on such a wide-ranging policy bill was unfair.