Republican Mark Kirk, the newest member of the U.S. Senate and longtime Chicago-area congressman, said he will study a Pentagon report on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" before making a decision on the issue.
Kirk, who defeated progressive Democrat Alexi Giannoulias in the race for President Obama's former Senate seat, has held a generally moderate stance on gay rights throughout his career. He opposed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, 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, his credibility in the LGBT community has since faltered.
As a U.S. Representative in May, Kirk voted against a bill that would end the military's ban on openly gay soldiers, and during a debate in October said he would be looking very closely at the Department of Defense/Joint Chiefs of Staff report before making any further decisions.
On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for the Senate to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," based on the report, which showed that the majority of of U.S. military members support DADT's repeal.
"Senator Kirk will read every page of the DoD/Joint Chiefs of Staff report and will seek a meeting with the Chief of Naval Operations to discuss his findings before making a decision on this issue," Kirk's spokesman Lance Trover told Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times.
The response was similar to Kirk's in an October debate with Giannoulias, moderated by "Chicago Tonight" host Phil Ponce. Ponce asked Kirk if he would vote to repeal DADT if the Pentagon study showed that it would not damage the U.S. military.
"I'm going to read every word of that study," Kirk said, adding that he would want the military to have a new policy in place if DADT were to be repealed.
The Obama Administration wants the Senate to consider repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the lame duck session, because repealing it in January will be more difficult.
Kirk was sworn in to the Senate earlier than other newly elected Senators in order to finish former Sen. Roland Burris' term. Kirk has made it clear, however, that he wants to avoid controversial issues during the lame duck session.
"I think we should make a very limited set of decisions, and then let the new Congress, that has a fresh mandate from the American people, take office and make the bigger decision," Kirk said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Monday.
A Senate committee will begin two days of hearings on the Pentagon's DADT report on Thursday.
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