Joe Lieberman Could be Taking the Lead on "Don't Ask"

(AP/Lauren Victoria Burke)
Senator Joe Lieberman, the Democrat-turned-Independent from Connecticut, appears to be taking the lead in the Senate to expand gay rights.

President Obama has been working with Lieberman to create a strategy to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bans openly gay servicemen from the military, the Advocate reports.

"On 'don't ask, don't tell,' this administration is talking directly to the Hill -- we are in direct discussions with Senator Lieberman," John Berry, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, told the Advocate. Berry is the administration's highest-ranking, openly gay official.

On Saturday, the president restated his promise to end the ban.

A spokesman for Lieberman confirmed that the senator, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, had been speaking to the White House about the bill, the Advocate reports. The spokesman, however, gave no other information regarding the senator's plans.

Lieberman is already working to expand rights for homosexuals with legislation to grant the same benefits to gay federal employees and their spouses as given any married federal employee and their spouse, the Hill newspaper reports.

The bill has one GOP co-sponsor, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), along with 23 Democratic co-sponsors. Lieberman hopes to bring the bill to the Senate floor by the end of the year, the Hill reports.

With respect to repealing "don't ask, don't tell," Berry told the Advocate the White House would like to see Senate legislation gain bipartisan support.

While many in the gay community are losing patience with Mr. Obama for his lack of action on gay rights issues, the Washington Post points out in an editorial Tuesday that Congress shares the blame.

"Ending... forms of institutional discrimination based on sexual orientation requires leadership. Pity there's not enough of it coming from either end of Pennsylvania Avenue," the Post wrote. "Overturning 'don't ask, don't tell' and DOMA require legislation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) have been content to sit on the sidelines while Mr. Obama takes the hits. This can't continue."