Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland has signed on to new legislation designed to repeal the ban on gays in the military.
Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent Democrat, introduced a repeal measure on Wednesday, co-sponsored by a dozen Democrats. Cardin's office notified reporters that he, too, was adding his name to the measure.
Prospects for the legislation remain unclear. It would need 60 Senate votes for approval. Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee and one of the co-sponsors, has said that it might be more likely that Congress would approve a moratorium on discharges under the 17-year-old law, rather than outright repeal.
A total of 8,300 gay service members were discharged between 1999 and 2008 because of the law, according to a report provided to Congress this week by the Department of Defense. Since the law began, some 14,000 servicemen and women have been discharged because of their sexual orientation.
In line with President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign promise to change the law, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen have called for repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." But there remains opposition to a shift within the military.
The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James T. Conway, has said the current policy works and should not be changed. Other service chiefs have said they support a Pentagon plan for a study of a possible change. That report is expected to be completed by Dec. 1.
Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the party's 2008 presidential nominee, have vowed to fight repeal.