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Senate Unlikely to Speed Consideration of Policy on Gays in Military

The Senate will not move up its timeline to consider repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy despite a recent ruling by a federal judge that declared it unconstitutional, Democratic sources said Friday.

Democrats have said the defense authorization bill and its language to revoke the military’s policy barring gays from serving openly is a top priority for the upcoming work period. But consideration could get pushed off because of a packed legislative schedule.

“This is on a list of items we could consider in the upcoming work period,” said Regan LaChapelle, spokeswoman for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “We will need Republican support to do so.”

Arizona Sen. John McCain may prevent quick action. The Republican has maintained that the chamber should not consider repealing the policy until after the military has reviewed the effects of such action.

McCain was unmoved by the ruling by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips, released Thursday, declaring the policy violates the First Amendment rights of gays and lesbians.

“Senator McCain’s position on the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law remains the same — the study on battle effectiveness and morale must be completed before prematurely repealing the policy to simply fulfill a campaign promise made by the President,” spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said in an e-mail.

Gay-rights organizations have pushed Senate leaders in recent days to consider the defense measure this month and used Thursday’s court decision to make the case that the chamber should act quickly. The Human Rights Campaign had previously scheduled a “call-in” for Friday to urge Members to take up the defense measure before adjourning Oct. 8 for the midterm elections.

“With this legal victory in hand, Congress is right now in a perfect position to strengthen our national security by ending a law that has discharged thousands of capable service members,” HRC president Joe Solmonese said in a statement. “With House passage already secured, the Senate can and should vote in the next few weeks to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and allow every qualified man and woman the chance to serve with honor.”

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