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Senate to take up 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal next week

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The provision is in a larger defense spending bill
  • The House has passed its version of the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal
  • Repeal would occur after the military completes its review of the issue
  • A federal judge has ruled the policy is unconstitutional

Washington (CNN) -- A military spending bill that includes the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning openly gay and lesbian soldiers will come up for Senate debate next week, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office.

Reid's spokesman confirmed Monday that the chamber will take up the National Defense Authorization Act on September 20.

The measure, which includes funding for military operations, also contains the controversial provision to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy after the Pentagon concludes a review of the matter in December, and President Barack Obama, the Secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all give their approval.

Last week, a federal judge in California ruled that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is unconstitutional. The decision by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips shifted the focus on the issue to Congress, where the House has passed its version of the repeal measure scheduled to come before the Senate next week.

More than 12,500 gays have been booted from the military since "don't ask, don't tell" went into effect.

Video: Troops surveyed on 'don't ask' policy

In a statement Monday, the nation's largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans applauded the decision by Reid, D-Nevada, to take up the Senate measure.

"We are both pleased and relieved that Senator Reid has decided to schedule the defense authorization bill for floor time next week," said Alexander Nicholson, founder and Executive Director of Servicemembers United.

"We are fairly confident that we will have the 60 votes to break a filibuster of this bill. It would be shameful for lawmakers to vote to hold up an important and expansive piece of legislation like the defense authorization bill simply because of their opposition to one or two provisions within it," Nicholson said.

CNN's Ted Barrett contributed to this report.