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Senate Faces Tight Vote Tuesday on DADT

By L.K. Regan

Last week, we reported that a repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (the ban on gays in the military) was stalled in Congress. Now it appears that pressure from gay activists has reached the ears of congressional leaders, as a vote on the Defense Authorization Act containing a repeal is up for a vote on Tuesday. Its fate is highly uncertain.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced that the Senate will vote on Tuesday, September 21 at 2:15 pm (EST). In a statement, Reid said that, "Passage of this bill would overturn the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ rule for our armed forces. We will finally send a loud and clear message that everyone who steps up to serve our country should and will be welcomed regardless of sexual orientation." And in a truly bizarre twist, he sent a twitter message to pop diva Lady Gaga saying, "There is a vote on #DADT next week. Anyone qualified to serve this country should be allowed to do so." This was clearly an appeal to the youth vote, and a response to Gaga's tweets and media appearances in which she has encouraged her fans to call Reid and other senators to insist on a vote. With seven million followers, Lady Gaga's tweets get attention—apparently even from congressional leaders.

The fate of the legislation in a vote is dubious, however. Reid will need to rally 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster, and he is facing resistance. Republican Senator John McCain (Ariz.) has threatened to filibuster the bill. Senator Joe Lieberman has said, "I don't think the votes are there to break the filibuster, which would be a shame." And the bill has had another amendment attached to it that many Republicans strongly oppose. This is the DREAM Act, which would allow illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 and have been in the country (without criminal convictions, etc.) for five years to obtain a green card after going to college or serving in the military.

Despite the fact that the DREAM Act was originally co-authored by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the current Republican make-up of the Senate sees it as an immigration bill likely to be controversial to their base in the lead-up to an election. In fact, Hatch himself no longer supports it. Since the DREAM Act and DADT repeal are amendments to the same bill, they will share the same fate.

The vote is scheduled for Tuesday, and there is still time to call your Senators to insist that they repeal DADT. Don't have their numbers at hand? Find them here.