Senate Dems Push for Gay Troops Debate

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WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats are pushing for an extended debate with the GOP on a defense bill that includes a repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

A dozen Democrats and independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman joined on Capitol Hill, Thursday, to urge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to allow a debate on the military's ban on homosexuals. Republicans have previously blocked such a debate.

The senators say the military is losing vital skills by booting soldiers out because of their sexuality.

"Nearly 10 percent of those discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell were experts in Arabic, Farsi, Chinese and similar languages," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said. "There is no way that we can win the war on terror if we are frittering away so much talent."

Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach also took the podium. As a gay Air Force fighter, he said he's being kept from flying while the military decides his fate.

"I'm ready to deploy in combat for the seventh time if I'm called," he said. "In fact, in all likelihood, I'd be deployed right now, doing my job, flying my F-15 for my country, and protecting soldiers and Marines on the ground in Afghanistan if not for Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

But supporters of the policy say polls have shown Americans don't agree with President Barack Obama's liberal policies like allowing gays in the military.

"His forcing of homosexuality upon the military and advancing it in the culture -- to say that [Obama's] going to try to do that in a lame-duck session of Congress shows that he's not listening," Family Research Council President Tony Perkins explained.

"Military leaders across the board have said this (repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell) is not something we need to do. This will not enhance our effectiveness," he added.

If Sen. Reid permits the extended debate, the legislation is expected to pass. A spokesman for Reid said no decisions have been made.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.