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Fresh Off ‘Don’t Ask’ Win, Gay-Rights Groups Look Ahead

Before the repeal is officially dropped, the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must certify that the military is ready for the change.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which has been active in pushing for the repeal, said his group will now pivot to monitoring the certification process.

Sarvis added that the Pentagon should not prolong the next stage. “They’ve had 10 months to work on these things,” he said.

In the past year, gay-rights lobbyists have spent much of their time and financial resources on fighting to repeal the Clinton-era policy banning openly gay people from serving in the military.

HRC spent $3.5 million on its lobbying efforts, the most ever for any advocacy campaign spearheaded by the association, Sainz said.

He added that the Senate’s approval of the repeal should bolster the group’s fundraising among donors who might otherwise have been dispirited if the measure had failed.

Raising money, however, will be more difficult for groups whose mission has been primarily advocating on behalf of gay members of the military.

“This will definitely change the fundraising calculus for us,” said Alex Nicholson, the executive director of Servicemembers United, a group that advocates on behalf of gay soldiers. Nicholson said about half the group’s funds come from gay foundations.

But he added that his group will still play a major role providing support for gay military members, who now may feel more free to join such an association.

Nicholson, who tangled with some of the other gay-rights groups, said the lobbying campaign was challenging. Part of the difficulty, he said, was having to “cut through the inter-organizational politics.”

“Various groups can be vicious sometimes,” he said, referring to arguments about “who’s going to stand next to whom.”

Other gay-rights lobbyists, however, complained that Nicholson, who criticized Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for his strategy, was often impolitic in his public comments.

There were also disputes among gay-rights groups over whether celebrities such as Lady Gaga helped their cause by publicly lobbying for the repeal.

Despite the lobbying challenges, gay activists see the final results as historic.

“I liken what happened on Saturday to the Berlin Wall coming down,” Sainz said.

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