By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON _ The Obama administration appears to have settled on a senator it hopes will take the lead in repealing the law than bars gays from serving openly in the military: Joseph I. Lieberman, the Connecticut Independent who sits on the Armed Services Committee.
According to a report in The Advocate, Obama aides have met with Lieberman in recent days about sponsoring a companion bill to legislation proposed in the House earlier this year by Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Pennsylvania Democrat and Iraq War veteran.
The discussions signal that White House is preparing to spend some political capital to try to achieve one of President Obama's campaign pledges following criticism from gay rights groups that he has done too little to advance their agenda.
"On Ďdonít ask, donít tell,í this administration is talking directly to the Hill -- we are in direct discussions with Senator Lieberman," John Berry, the director of the Office of Personnel Management and the highest ranking openly gay official in the administration, told the newspaper.
The comments came after Obama spoke on Saturday to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy group, in which he restated his commitment to repeal.
Lieberman's office confirmed the report, saying in a statement that the former Democratic vice presidential candidate "has had discussions with representatives of the Administration and others on the best way to reverse this policy, which he has opposed since it was first proposed in 1993."
Lieberman's sponsorship could help improve the chances for repeal the law and the Pentagon policy -- commonly referred to as don't ask, don't tell -- that requires gays and lesbians in uniform to keep their sexual orientation secret..
A senior member of the armed services panel, Lieberman is considered a hawk on most military matters and could potentially enlist the support of Republicans such as Senators Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins of Maine.
Lieberman, who is facing a tough re-election fight, could also benefit by repairing his image with progressives, who have criticized him for campaigning on behalf of GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.
Some quarters of the Pentagon appear to be prepared to implement a new policy as well. In an article appearing this month in Joint Force Quarterly, a scholarly magazine published for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, an Air Force colonel called for lifting the ban, arguing that by forcing thousands of military personnel to live a lie the military is undercutting the very honor and integrity that form the backbone of military service.
More than 13,000 men and women have been discharged from the military under the don't ask, don't tell policy since 1994, either as a result of their own admission or investigations of their sexual orientation initiated by tips from others.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.