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"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal Effort: Lame Duck Vote to Come?


The Republican-led filibuster of legislation to allow for repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning gays from serving openly in the military is already prompting gay rights advocates to consider their next move.

And while the issue will continue to be litigated in the courts, advocates have not given up on the legislative process: The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which is dedicated to ending the policy, is now pushing for another vote following the midterm elections, where, it says, there is a "slim shot" of passage.

"We now have no choice but to look to the lame duck session where we'll have a slim shot," the group said in a statement after the vote. "The Senate absolutely must schedule a vote in December when cooler heads and common sense are more likely to prevail once midterm elections are behind us."

"We lost because of the political maneuvering dictated by the mid-term elections," the group added. "Let's be clear: Opponents to repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' did not have the votes to strike those provisions from the bill. Instead, they had the votes for delay. Time is the enemy here."

Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who had been seen as a potential 60th vote to break a filibuster to advance the legislation, said she was voting against advancing the legislation not out of support for the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy but because she did not feel Republicans had been given enough opportunity to offer amendments.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who only allowed Republicans the chance to put forth one amendment on repealing the policy, said before the vote that Reid would be open to more debate in the lame-duck session following the midterm elections.

It's not clear, however, that the 60-vote threshold would be achieved even if more debate wins over Collins. That's because two Democrats -- Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas - also supported the filibuster. (Reid voted with them, but only so that he could bring the bill back to the floor at a later date under Senate rules.)

The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal provision was attached to the defense authorization bill, which the Senate will likely move to pass one way or another before the end of the year. It now falls to Reid to decide whether to again attach the repeal provision to the bill next time he brings it to the floor. (The same is true of another controversial provision, the DREAM Act.)

Republicans, who expect to pick up seats in both the House and Senate in the midterms, have pushed Democrats not to pass any legislation during the lame duck session, suggesting that doing so would be acting against the will of the American people.

According to CBS News polling, however, most Americans support allowing gay men and women to serve openly.

In a statement after the vote, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said "politicians are playing politics with people's lives."

"Seventy-eight percent of Americans support ending 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and countless others believe that young people should be provided a path to citizenship in the country they love and have always called home," the group said. "Today's Senate vote mocks those ideals. The senators who led and supported the filibuster effort should be ashamed."

But Family Research Council President Tony Perkins called the vote "a victory for the men and women who serve our nation in uniform."

"At least for now they will not be used to advance a radical social agenda," he said in a statement.

Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) said in a statement that "this is a cause whose time has come." He went on to suggest the issue would again come up for a vote before the year is out.

"I remain confident that we will repeal this policy that is unjust and discriminatory and counter both to our national values and our national security," he said. "We didn't win today, but we can win this fight this year."

Brian Montopoli is a political reporter for You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.