WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2010 -- Cindy McCain has delivered a double-barreled rebuke -- to the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy -- and to her husband, one of the policy's leading supporters. She chose as her forum a new anti-bullying public service video sponsored by a California gay and lesbian rights group.
"Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future. They can't serve our country openly," says Cindy McCain. "Our government treats the LGBT community like second class citizens..."
Her appearances, totaling less than 15 seconds in the two and a half minute film, are interspersed between those of other celebrities, who also decry policies and attitudes that condone anti-gay bullying.
"After the recent LGBT suicides in the news, she wanted a way to speak out," videographer Adam Bouska, who produced the film, told ABC News. "We had been working on this anti-bullying PSA video, and she had reached out, and it was pretty simple."
The comments are the first time Ms. McCain has so publicly criticized the ban on openly gay and lesbian service members and exposes a deep divide over the issue of gay rights in one of the country's most prominent conservative families.
Sen. John McCain, a former Republican presidential nominee and decorated Vietnam veteran, has been a spirited supporter of "don't ask don't tell" and led the effort to block repeal of the policy during a Senate vote in September.
Bouska said the reference to the military's gay ban in the video was part of a script read by all participants during the taping. But editors chose to include McCain's delivery in the final cut, he said, "to make it as powerful as we can and as effective as we can."
"Don't ask, don't tell is a direct form of discrimination. It's bullying in an adult form. And it's still going on in our military every day," said Bouska.
A federal judge ruled in October that "don't ask, don't tell" was unconstitutional and ordered its enforcement halted immediately. An appeals court later suspended the injunction while the case continues -- a move the Supreme Court affirmed on Friday.
McCain's daughter, Meghan, a conservative blogger, has publicly aired her disagreement with her father, tweeting in September, "I am a supporter of LGBT rights and I am against DADT -- I fight every day."
Earlier this year, the McCain women appeared in a provocative photo campaign on the Web site of the gay rights group "NOH8" to support a repeal of California's Proposition 8, which banned the same-sex marriages in 2008. The group also produced the anti-bullying video.
"My wife and my family and I have our differences and we respect each others' views and we have spirited conversations," Sen. McCain, 74, said of his family's involvement in the campaign. "I obviously have always been opposed to gay marriage. I support proposition 8."
In October, McCain, who was campaigning for re-election, told local Phoenix TV station KPNX that he would continue to defend "don't ask don't tell" in Congress in the months ahead.
"Absolutely I will filibuster or stop it [a repeal] from being brought up until we have a thorough and complete study on the effect of morale and battle effectiveness," the four-term incumbent Republican senator from Arizona said. "That is the position of the four service chiefs."
An ongoing Pentagon study of potential impacts of lifting the ban on openly gay troops is due to be completed by Dec. 1. But it's unclear how soon the results of that study will be shared with top military brass and members of Congress.
Sources familiar with a draft copy of the study have said the findings reveal minimal risk to ending policy and that most service members wouldn't care if they had to live and work alongside openly gay and lesbian peers.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised another vote on a defense authorization bill that includes repeal, in the weeks before Congress adjourns for the year and Republicans assume new seats in both chambers.
The House has already approved a conditional repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."
President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen have all endorsed ending the policy and want Congress to consider a repeal during the upcoming lame duck session.
"I would like to see the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' but I'm not sure what the prospects for that are," Gates told reporters last weekend while traveling to Australia.
More than 75 percent of Americans believe gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military, a support rate higher than at any other time since the policy took effect in 1993, according to the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll.