Image: Robert Gates, Michael Mullen
Manuel Balce Ceneta  /  AP
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, left, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen arrive to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Feb. 2.
updated 11/28/2010 2:48:50 PM ET 2010-11-28T19:48:50

A Republican senator on Sunday played down the chances that the ban on gays serving openly in the military would be lifted during the lame-duck session of Congress that resumes this week.

While the House has already voted to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he didn't see the effort to end the ban as having enough Republican supporters in the Senate.

"I think in a lame-duck setting, 'don't ask, don't tell' is not going anywhere," Graham said on "Fox News Sunday."

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President Barack Obama pledged during his presidential campaign to seek repeal of the law allowing gays to serve in the military forces as long as they don't reveal their sexual orientation. Under the law, military officials are not allowed to inquire about sexual orientation.

The effort to repeal the ban on gays serving openly would face far more difficult votes in the Congress set to convene in January. Republicans would be in the majority in the House, and the Democratic majority in the Senate would narrow to a handful of seats.

Earlier this year Defense Secretary Robert Gates requested a study on how lifting the ban would affect the armed forces and could be carried out. He has ordered the release of the study on Tuesday, and the Senate Armed Services Committee plans hearings Thursday and Friday.

Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, support ending the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Mullen, who has said he favored the lame-duck Congress taking action if that would be the fastest way to repeal the ban, said he believed that asking people to lie about themselves went against the integrity of the armed forces.

Story: Troops buck historical trend by saying gays OK

The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, has said the policy shouldn't be lifted in wartime, arguing that openly gay troops could disrupt the cohesion of combat units.

A Pentagon survey of troops taken over the summer as part of the Gates-ordered study was expected to show that some 70 percent of respondents say that lifting the ban would have a positive or mixed effect, or none at all, according to officials familiar with the findings. The survey also found pockets of resistance among combat troops.

In Sunday news show appearances, Graham and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., contended that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was not a problem for the military and that lifting it was being pursued because of Obama's campaign promise.

"This was a political promise made by an inexperienced president or candidate for presidency of the United States," McCain said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"The military is at its highest point in recruitment and retention and professionalism and capability, so to somehow allege that this policy has been damaging the military is simply false," McCain said. "So the fact is that this system is working."

McCain called for assessing the impact on morale and battlefield effectiveness of lifting the ban, "not on how best to implement a change in policy."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Congress to address 'don't ask, don't tell'

  1. Closed captioning of: Congress to address 'don't ask, don't tell'

    >>> congress is having a fitd this week for a ban on openly gay troops serving in the armed forces . the senate will hold hearings later in the week on that, too. ann i want to start by asking this. we have support from secretary gates as well as president obama . what's the holdup here?

    >> the holdup is there's about ten moderate senators on both sides of the aisle who are waiting for that report due on tuesday. mostly republicans but mostly democrats say though don't want to vote on the defense authorization bill that would end don't ask don't tell until they read that report. we have reason to believe that it's going to say that a majority of troops think that it it won't be that big of a deal to end the ban on openly gay colleagues, but there are enough lawmakers out there waiting to hear the will of the troops and military leaders. it's believed that by the end of the week when they hear from the top military brass they can make a decision.

    >> the critics want to go through due process and make their decision but mentioned a majority of those in that study say that it is okay, but there are some -- there's a portion of the segment that are more resistantment.

    >> this big report is on tuesday, and it will account for a survey over the summer. it found from what we've been told that about 40% of the marines are concerned about the possibility of serving alongside openly gay troops. that's consistent with a few things i've been told. you know, you have top marine commanders who have expressed skepticism or guarded concern about the possibility of doing this, and you have a unit that is traditionally much closer and listens much more to its commanders. when you have commanders out there publicly raising concerns or skeptical about doing this, it's understandable that you would have more marines expressing concern. 40% is still a minority, but it's a sizable minority and once that will be focused on with hearings later this week.

    >> the hearings are thursday and friday, we expect to hear pro and anti-repeal. will that be able to sway the senators one way or the other?

    >> it's believed that it could. senator john mccain is the ranking republican on the senate armed services committee to hold the hearings. he wanted to hear from secretary gates and joint chiefs mullin about two co-authors of the report and heads of all of the services. it's bl believed in the conversation with the heads of services friday you will get more concern, not dissension in the ranks but they'll raise legitimate concerns and it's believed guys like mccain and ow other lawmakers may seize on the comments and say see if the service chiefs are saying there are problems, perhaps we should move forward. with that said majority of the country says this ban should be lifted. it appears that a majority of the troops in the report will say that they don't have a problem with it and the report generally is expected to say this isn't a big deal . this can be done at a time of war and here's the way to do it.

    >> ed o'keeffe, on don't ask, don't tell.


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