“I came away convinced that the Majority Leader was serious about bringing this up and doing it in a way that Senators on both sides of the aisle will get to offer amendments,” he said.
Representatives from the HRC and the Center for American Progress also attended the meeting.
Despite promises from Reid’s office, some gay-rights leaders are cautious about predicting success, noting that there are a number of obstacles including the Senate’s ambitious agenda, which already has tax and spending bills penciled in to consider in the remaining weeks of the lame-duck session.
“Time is our biggest enemy,” said R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans.
Cooper, who has also been critical of Reid for his procedural handling of the matter, said that he has spent much of his time shuttling between the offices of Republican Senators he considers easiest to persuade on the repeal. In the past two weeks, Cooper said he has visited 13 Senate offices and has come away convinced that nine GOP lawmakers are really in play.
The Log Cabin Republicans also is holding a fundraiser in New York on Tuesday to help pay for its legal case against the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. A federal judge in California this year ruled the policy was unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court has allowed the ban to remain in place pending federal appeals.
The activists also said they are unsure about the intentions of Sen.-elect Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who will be sworn in after Thanksgiving. While in the House, Kirk supported enforcement against gay hate crimes but opposed repealing the policy on gays in the military. Nicholson said he didn’t know which way Kirk would vote but noted that his ex-wife showed up at an event sponsored by Servicemembers United on repeal of the policy earlier this year.
Not All Gaga for Star Power
The last time the repeal measure came up, in September, the lobbying effort was accompanied by a public relations campaign by Lady Gaga, who headlined a rally in Maine intended to pressure Collins and Snowe.
But a number of gay-rights activists questioned the effectiveness of employing the flamboyant star, who donned a dress made of raw meat earlier this year, to sway members of Congress.
One gay-rights official called Lady Gaga’s participation in the effort “a total unmitigated disaster from a legislative point of view.” The official said that many lawmakers and Pentagon officials had no idea who the performer was.
Nicholson said that Lady Gaga’s appearance at a rally in Portland, Maine’s largest city, “left a bad taste in Sen. Collins’ mouth and some of her staff.”
But Sarvis, whose group coordinated with Lady Gaga on the issue, defended the performer’s role, saying she helped raise the profile of the issue with millions of young people.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if she weighs in again in a timely fashion,” Sarvis said.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.