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WASHINGTON — Lawmakers appear closer every day to overturning the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, but the actual date when gays will be allowed to serve openly seems to move farther back with each step.

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted 16-12 Thursday night to repeal the 1993 law that prohibited gays from serving openly, The Associated Press reported. The full House planned to vote on the measure later Thursday night or Friday.

The measure is a delayed repeal proposal offered as an amendment to Congress' annual defense authorization bill.

The White House and Congress announced the proposal earlier this week. It is aimed at ending the law after a yearlong review is completed on Dec. 1.

Wednesday night, House and Senate repeal advocates approved changes to that plan, mandating an additional 60-day waiting period after the president and the Pentagon certify the review panel’s work. The move was designed to appease several swing voters in both chambers.

That would delay a full repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law until at least late January 2011, assuming the certification process takes place as early as possible.

Alexander Nicholson, executive director of the pro-repeal group Servicemembers United, said he envisions the process taking longer.

“It might be several months before they formally certify, to make sure they’re ready for the change,” he said. “But we don’t see that as a major concern. Our position all along has been to guarantee that a repeal will take place, and work from there.”

Officials from the Human Rights Council also echoed that sentiment, saying they have no serious concerns about the additional 60-day wait.

Get Equal, another gay rights advocacy group, has protested against the delayed implementation and called for an immediate repeal.

“My question remains … when exactly will the discharges stop?” Army Lt. Dan Choi, an openly gay Iraq war veteran who has been arrested protesting the law outside the White House, said in a statement. “Until the president signs the papers that fully and immediately end the firing of patriotic gay and lesbian service members, then there is no cause for celebration.”

shanel@stripes.osd.mil

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