DADT repeal in jeopardy during lame duck session

WASHINGTON, DC (RNN) - The uncertain fate of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is causing a political firestorm in Washington.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, has his eyes set on a Dec. 10 wrap-up for Congress' lame duck session, but if a repeal is not approved, the legislation likely will wither away when Republicans take over the House in January.

For gay rights activists, time is of the essence.

On Monday, 13 GetEQUAL activists, including nine veterans, were arrested for chaining themselves to the White House fence as they challenged President Barack Obama's silence on the issue.

The thirteen chanted "Barrack Obama - silent homophobia" in unison.

The most notable of the protestors were former Army Lt. Dan Choi, who was previously arrested twice for the same action, and the Rev. Geoff Farrow, a Catholic priest controversial for his support of marriage equality.

The "Washington Blade" reported that the activists super glued their handcuff locks, making it difficult for them to be removed by authorities. It took five police officers to remove Choi.

"We honor the uniform when we fight for freedom and justice," Choi said in a Twitter post. "We dishonor it when we hide from the fight."

Reid's role

Prior to their protest, eight veterans, including Choi, paid a visit to Reid's office. The Nevada Democrat is the lawmaker with the power to schedule a vote on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes the military's budget as well as the DADT repeal.

GetEQUAL reported in its Twitter feed that Reid said the White House had not engaged with his office on the repeal. The group said the repeal is still on the table, though.

"Senator Reid is continuing to discuss this with his caucus and the Republicans and hopes that we can consider the legislation in the coming weeks," said Regan Lachapelle, the senator's deputy communications director.

Requests for comment from the White House were not returned.

The legislation may not see the light of day if a compromise is not reached, making it the first time in nearly 50 years that a Congress has not passed a defense authorization bill.

With two wars being waged and DADT in the balance, the pressure on Michigan Sen. Carl Levin to pass the bill is immense. Levin is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and one of the original architects of the repeal.

The Democratic senator has indicated that repeal language may need to be stripped in order to get the bill on the floor.

Security and support

Two prominent groups representing openly gay troops - OutServe and Knights Out - said Monday that while a repeal should occur, it shouldn't get in the way of national security.

"There is nothing more important than loyalty to those with whom we serve," the groups said in a joint statement issued by the Palm Center. "This means ensuring that no one issue interferes with funding the courageous and selfless work our fellow service members are doing around the world."

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman said he isn't giving up just yet.

"We've got time to do this, and it's the right thing to do it," said Lieberman during a Monday appearance on MSNBC.

Lieberman said he believes soldiers shouldn't have to lie about who they are. And he cited early results on a survey ordered by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to examine a repeal of the controversial legislation as support.

According to the survey, 70 percent of respondents said the effects of a repeal would be "positive, mixed or nonexistent," the "Washington Post" reported. The full report is expected to be released Dec. 1.

The legislation also has gained the support of two of the most senior officials in the military: Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Lieberman told MSNBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell that the Department of Defense should find a way to issue the report, which they have nearly completed, as quickly as possible and certainly before the deadline.

Out of touch?

This week, other gay rights groups also took action.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) paid for full-page ads that appeared Monday in newspapers in Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia and Indiana - four crucial battlegrounds in the repeal process.

The organization also built upon its eight-state grassroots campaign by issuing an action alert to its 1.3 million email members to contact their senators.

"A few senators who are holding on to the outdated notion that gay and lesbian patriots willing to die for their country should not be able to serve are determined to block a bill that gives pay raises to our troops and protects them while at war," said HRC President Joe Solmonese in a news release.  "Our troops deserve better."

The HRC noted that these senators were out of touch with the American public, 80 percent of whom support a repeal. Even high-profile Republicans former Vice President Dick Cheney and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani support the repeal of DADT.

The HRC specifically called out Arizona Sen. John McCain, who played a key role in preventing the defense authorization act from coming up to a vote.

"Our political leaders and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future, they can't serve our country openly," Solmonese added. "Our government treats the LGBT community like second-class citizens."

Sen. McCain appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday afternoon with his position unchanged.

McCain said the repeal survey that was issued to 500,000 military personnel was skewed, because it addresses how to implement the appeal and not whether the appeal should take place.

"We need to look at whether it's the kind of study that we wanted," McCain said to David Gregory. "It isn't in my view, because I wanted a study to determine the effects of the repeal on battle effectiveness and morale."

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