Senate to Take Up 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

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After several false starts the Senate is set Saturday to overturn the ban on gay men and women openly serving in the military.

A vote to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is expected by noon today. At least 60 senators are expected to vote to pass the legislation, clearing a final, difficult and long-awaited hurdle in ending the Clinton-era ban.

The Senate vote is believed to be the last best chance of repeal before the Republicans take over the House next year.

The House Wednesday voted 250-175 in favor of the repeal, sending the bill to the Senate. Senate approval would send the bill to the president's desk.

Failure to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" seemed a foregone conclusion, when earlier this month Senate Republicans defeated a larger military spending bill, part of which included language to end the ban.

Since lawmakers drafted a bill just targeting the ban enough Republicans including Sen. Scott Brown, R- Mass., and Olympia Snowe, R- Maine, agreed to vote in favor of repeal, giving proponents the 60 votes needed.

The Democratic push for repeal was bolstered by a recent Pentagon study that found most troops believed ending the ban would not effect combat readiness. Two-thirds of troops said they did not expect things to change if the law was repealed.

Senior Pentagon officials, including Defense Sec. Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen have also supported lifting the ban.

Some military officers and Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, have vocally opposed a change in the law.

"I don't want to lose any Marines to the distraction," said Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos said last week. "I don't want to permit that opportunity to happen. And I'll tell you why. If you go up to Bethesda Hospital . . . Marines are up there with no legs, none. We've got Marines at Walter Reed with no limbs."