The Obama administration announced this week that it will support a push to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. A vote on repealing the 17-year-old system may come before Congress as early as this week.
One of the ramifications of this new push will be extracting a vote on the subject from Rep. Mark Kirk, the Republican candidate for Illinois's Senate seat.
Kirk, a Naval Reserve officer, has had a generally moderate stance on gay rights in his career representing Chicago's affluent northern suburbs. He voted against Constitutional marriage amendments, supported ending job discrimination based on sexual orientation and received a favorable 75 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign on gay rights issues.
But the one blemish on his otherwise good reputation on the issue is on DADT. He has long stood by the Clinton-era policy, and his spokeswoman reiterated the candidate's stance to POLITICO recently:
"Congressman Kirk is proud to serve our country in uniform," spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said. "He supports and abides by the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy."
It's an issue on which his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, has pushed him consistently throughout the 2010 Senate race. Giannoulias has repeatedly reached out to gay organizations like the Center on Halsted, expressing his solidarity with their causes and criticizing Kirk on DADT.
"Ten years from now, we will look back in amazement that we denied full and equal rights for LGBT Americans," Giannoulias said at a press conference last week.
Thanks to the Obama administration's move, a repeal of the policy -- dubbed by opponents as "outdated" and "out-of-touch" -- will come before Congress in the form of a budget amendment. Specifically, it will be attached to the Defense Appropriations bill.
This means that Kirk will have to cast a vote on Don't Ask, Don't Tell imminently on the House floor. And he's shown no signs off backing off his support of the policy, despite its unpopularity. Depending on what poll you look at, between 60 and 75 percent Americans believe gays should be able to serve openly in the military. In any case, it's a clear majority.
The Giannoulias campaign promises it won't let voters forget Kirk's opposition to repeal, regardless of whether or not the measure passes.
Giannoulias spokeswoman Kathleen Strand told NBC Chicago, "I'm sure his opposition will come up."
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