WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2010— -- The effort to lift the military's ban on openly gay and lesbian service members had a major setback Tuesday when Senate Democrats failed to win the 60 votes needed to advance a defense bill that included conditional repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell law.
Arkansas Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor joined all Republicans in opposing the measure. And neither of Maine's Republican Sens. Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe, who had been the target of a media campaign by Lady Gaga, supported advancing it.
Gay rights advocates, who said they believed today's vote was the best opportunity in the foreseeable future to achieve a repeal, expressed disappointment at the vote but hope the Senate might still act after the November elections.
"Time is the enemy here," said Aubrey Sarvis of the Service Members Legal Defense Network, a gay and lesbian advocacy group. "We now have no choice but to look to the lame duck session where we'll have a slim shot. The Senate absolutely must schedule a vote in December when cooler heads and common sense are more likely to prevail once midterm elections are behind us."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would push for reconsideration of the legislation later this year.
"This ain't over," Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who supports repeal, said on the Senate floor.
Senate Republicans, led by John McCain of Arizona, had objected to Congress acting on a repeal before the Pentagon has completed an ongoing review of the impacts of changing the policy. That report is due in December.