December 7, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
‘Don’t Ask’ protest set for Friday on Capitol Hill

Groups seeking an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” are planning a Capitol Hill protest on Friday to demand that lawmakers consider repeal of the military’s gay ban before the year is out.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said the demonstration is intended to encourage the Senate to extend the legislative session until they pass the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill, which contains a provision to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“We must show our rage for repeal and insist the Senate stay in Washington until they have finished the job,” Sarvis said. “We implore all who support repeal to join us outside the Senate this Friday. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, ‘If not now, when?’”

The protest is set to begin at noon at the Upper Senate Park, which is North of the U.S. Capitol, at the corner of Constitution Ave. and Delaware Ave., NE.

SLDN is the lead organization coordinating the protest, but other groups have signed on as sponsors, including the Human Rights Campaign, American Veterans for Equal Rights, VoteVets and People for the American Way.

Talk of extending the session has emerged as many LGBT advocates fear other legislative priorities — such as extension of the Bush-era tax cuts and ratification of the START Treaty — will bump “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal from the calendar.

On the Senate floor on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reaffirmed his intention to bring up “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal during the lame duck session of Congress. Still, he announced that Dec. 17 would be the target date this year for adjournment and said he doesn’t think his colleages wanted to stay in session until Christmas Eve as they did last year.

But with a number of unfinished items still on the agenda, including “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, senators such as Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) have raised the idea of extending the legislative session.

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said the Democratic caucus was set to discuss the possibility of staying longer than originally planned during its weekly meeting Tuesday.

“I think they’ll end up staying through probably at least the 20th or the 21st, or maybe 22nd,” Nicholson said. “There’s going to be a lot of pressure for them to do that.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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