Mark Kirk Pressured By Constituents, Obama Administration On Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal
A Senate vote on the defense authorization bill that includes the repeal of the military's controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy could happen as soon as Wednesday evening. As Democrats scramble to secure 60 votes needed to defeat a Republican filibuster, the Obama Administration has reached out to Illinois voters--and urged them to give freshman Senator Mark Kirk a call.
Kirk voted against repealing DADT twice as a House member, but said he would carefully review the Pentagon's report on the matter before making a decision.
On Wednesday afternoon, a Kirk staffer told HuffPost Chicago that the Senator has not formally announced a decision on the matter, but has been reading the Pentagon's report.
Last week, 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 the repeal.
Illinois voters have been making calls to Sen. Kirk's Washington D.C. office all week, and a Kirk staffer--who did not want to be named-- said the majority of callers wanted to see the policy that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military repealed.
"A lot more [callers] do want it repealed," he said.
Anthony Martinez, co-Executive Director of LGBT Change, said his group has been calling hundreds of Illinois households. While phone banking, 500 residents vowed to call Kirk's office and urge him to vote for the repeal of DADT. Martinez said that polls put 70 percent of Illinois voters in favor of repealing the policy, and that he hopes Kirk's vote will reflect those numbers.
"Hopefully Mark Kirk will fulfill his promise to be an independent. . . and do what his constituents actually want him to do as opposed to standing with his party."
Illinois voters aren't the only ones reaching out to the freshman senator. The Obama Administration has been hoping Kirk "does the right thing" and votes for the defense authorization bill Wednesday.
"The Pentagon's findings are just the latest signal that our troops are ready for this change," Yohannes Abraham, the political director of Organizing for America wrote in an email to supporters. "And top military leaders across the board -- from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Michael Mullen to Defense Secretary Robert Gates to General Colin Powell -- have publicly voiced their support for repeal. Sen. Kirk needs to know we're counting on him to stand up and support this important legislation regardless of his party affiliation. He needs to know we're watching and ready to respond to discrimination of any kind."
During his campaign against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, Kirk waffled on the issue of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, saying that there should be a new policy in place before the military does away with it. He also vowed to "read every word" of the Pentagon study before making a decision.
Kirk 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.