Congressman Patrick Murphy will lead the fight to repeal “don't ask, don't tell,” the law that forbids open gay service, when Congress returns to work this week.

Murphy will take over as lead sponsor of the House bill that repeals the military gay ban that prescribes discharge for gay and lesbian service members who do not remain closeted or celibate.

The bill was introduced by California Representative Ellen Tauscher in March before she was tapped by President Obama for a top post in the State Department.

In an exclusive interview with Stars and Stripes, Murphy said he wants to repeal “don't ask, don't tell” as soon as possible, with or without the help of the president.

“I don't work for the president,” Murphy said. “We don't need to wait.”

Murphy, a Democrat from Pennsylvania who served in Iraq, is backing those words with the strongest push for repeal yet, which includes a website on the issue and face-to-face meetings with House members.

President Obama has said he is committed to repealing the 16-year-old law, but has refused to sign an executive order that would end discharges as Congress reviews the policy. Both the White House and the Pentagon have said the policy will continue until the law is repealed. A position that has riled some gay activists.

Gay activists angered by Obama's hesitation to make good on the gay rights promises he made as candidate and several high-profile discharges have thrust “don't ask, don't tell” into a heated national debate earlier than the administration had hoped. The Obama administration has fired 282 gay soldiers, a Servicemembers Legal Defense Network spokesman said.

Murphy's dedication to repeal was on display last year during a Congressional hearing on the issue.

“In essence you are basically asserting that straight men and women in our military aren't professional enough to serve openly with gay troops while successfully completing their military mission,” Murphy replied to testimony that implied open gay service would “sexualize” the military. “You know as a former Army officer I could tell you that's an insult to me and many of the soldiers.”

But while support for repeal continues to grow, opposition by social conservatives remains strong.

“If they go ahead with this, there are going to be protests, there are going to be lawsuits, and this is going to be taken to court,” the Rev. Billy Baugham, executive director of the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers, told the the paper.

“This is a matter of readiness, and it's going to break down the relationship between soldiers who are forced into close quarters,” he added.

Murphy's push for repeal begins Wednesday as Congress returns to work. The effort's new website at also goes live Wednesday.