The Senate next week will vote on a Defense Department authorization bill that includes language to roll back "don't ask, don't tell," the policy that prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring the legislation to the floor after the Senate finishes work on a small business bill, Politico reports.
If passed, the Senate legislation would have to be combined with the House version -- the House voted on "don't ask, don't tell" in May -- but even then, the policy would not be completely repealed. First, President Obama would have to certify a Pentagon review of how repealing "don't ask, don't tell" would impact troop morale. The report is due Dec. 1, and the Defense authorization bill simply gives the Defense Department authority to act on its findings.
"It does not repeal 'don't ask, don't tell' -- I wish that it did," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told Politico.
Nevertheless, gay rights advocates see this month's vote as a critical step in moving toward a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." Gay rights groups are aggressively lobbying Congress this week ahead of the Senate vote, the Washington Post reports.
The Senate may need 60 votes to begin debate on the Defense authorization bill, since Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has reportedly threatened to filibuster it. McCain reportedly objects to a number of elements in the bill, including the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal.
Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.