Newly-minted Senator Mark Kirk is facing pressure from his constituents over his opposition to the proposed repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
The change in military policy allowing openly gay and lesbian troops to serve has already passed the House of Representatives. It now needs a modicum of Republican support to overcome a Senate filibuster.
Kirk, the Illinois Republican, is among the moderate senators being targeted by advocates of repeal. Today, Organizing for America volunteers dropped off 28,000 petition signatures from Illinois at Kirk's Washington office, while making a similar drop at Senator Scott Brown's door.
The signature dump was part of a concerted effort by the Obama administration, gay rights groups and others to court Kirk's vote on the issue. While he voted against a DADT repeal in the House last May, he had previously had a strong record on gay rights, voting to ban job discrimination on the basis of orientation and against a constitutional marriage amendment.
During his Senate campaign against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, he had advocated waiting for the Pentagon to study the effects of repeal. But as Organizing for America reminds Kirk in a press release today, the Pentagon data "shows that an overwhelming majority of military servicemen and women believe repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' would have little or no effect on their units."
OFA and the Obama administration are hoping to peel Kirk away from his party on a major issue for the first time in his short tenure in the Senate. Since being sworn in to replace Roland Burris this November, Kirk has stood by a Republican filibuster of the Zadroga Act, as the 9/11 first responders' health care bill is called, and has said before he would oppose the DREAM Act.
Colonel William Cline, a retired Army physician, joined fellow volunteers Saif Khan and Brad Reichard in delivering the petitions to Kirk's door.