Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman
announced Monday that he will back a bill in the Senate to overturn
“don't ask, don't tell,” the law that outlaws gay troops from
“I will be proud to be a sponsor of
the important effort to enable patriotic gay Americans to defend our
national security and our founding values of freedom and
opportunity,” Lieberman said in a statement.
Analysts had expected Lieberman to take
up the bill; several news outlets have reported that the Independent
senator was in negotiations with the White House on the issue.
“To exclude one group of Americans
from serving in the armed forces is contrary to our fundamental
principles as outlined in the Declaration of Independence and weakens
our defenses by denying our military the service of a large group of
Americans who can help our case,” he added.
A House version of the bill was
introduced last spring by California Representative Ellen Tauscher
but sponsorship was later transferred to Pennsylvania Representative
Patrick Murphy, a decorated Iraq veteran, when Tauscher accepted a
post in the Obama administration.
The House version of the bill that
would allow gay men and lesbian service members to openly declare
their sexual orientation without risk of losing their jobs has
attracted 187 co-sponsors and is awaiting a hearing in a subcommittee
of the House Armed Services Committee.
Lieberman's Senate bill will likely be
heard in Michigan Senator Carl Levin's Senate Armed Services
The panel has already heard testimony
on the issue from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike
Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both men urged
Congress to repeal the ban.
“It is my personal and professional
belief that allowing homosexuals to serve openly would be the right
thing to do,” Mullen said. “No matter how I look at the issue, I
cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a
policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in
order to defend their fellow citizens.”
In his testimony, Gates announced he
has ordered a 45-day study on how to implement a “fairer” version
of the law.
Recent polling shows a majority of
Americans agree the ban is discriminatory and should be repealed.
gay, lesbian and bisexual people are currently serving in the Armed
Forces, about 2.2% of all military personnel, a recent UCLA study
found. The military has spent up to $500 million implementing the
Lawmakers are unlikely to attempt
passage of a stand-alone version of the bill in the Senate. Instead,
they have alluded to a plan that would tuck the legislation in next
year's defense authorization bill. Proponents hope the strategy will
head off a Republican-led filibuster.