Published: May 25, 2010 11:41 AM EDT
Updated: May 25, 2010 8:41 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - Gay rights groups are urging quick

congressional approval of a proposal to repeal the ban on gays

serving openly in the military while allowing the Pentagon to

continue its review of how to implement the new policy.

"Without a repeal vote by Congress this year, the Pentagon's

hands are tied and the armed forces will be forced to continue

adhering to the discriminatory 'don't ask, don't tell' law," says

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., an Iraq war veteran, is expected to

introduce the legislative proposal Tuesday. A vote could come as

early as Thursday.

The White House had hoped lawmakers would delay action until

Pentagon officials had completed their study so fellow Democrats

would not face criticism that they moved too quickly or too far

ahead of public opinion in this election year. When administration

officials recognized they could not stop Congress in its effort to

repeal the ban, they invited gay rights activists to the White

House to work on a compromise Monday.

The White House budget office sent a letter supporting the

proposal as an amendment to the annual defense spending bill.

Implementation of a policy for gays serving openly would still

require the approval of President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary

Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm.

Mike Mullen. How long implementation might take is not known, but

the proposal would have no effect on current practices.

"The proposed amendment will allow for completion of the

comprehensive review, enable the Department of Defense to assess

the results of the review, and ensure that the implementation of

the repeal is consistent with standards of military readiness,

effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention," budget

chief Peter Orszag wrote in letters to Murphy and Sens. Joe

Lieberman of Connecticut and Carl Levin of Michigan, the three

Democrats leading the push for repeal.

Hours later, top Democratic lawmakers approved the final version

of the brokered deal. However, the third-ranking House Republican,

Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, promised unified GOP opposition.

"The American people don't want the American military to be

used to advance a liberal political agenda. And House Republicans

will stand on that principle," Pence said. He urged Democrats to

wait until the Pentagon completes its review.

Obama called for the repeal during his State of the Union

address this year, and Gates and Mullen have echoed his views while

cautioning that any action must be paced. Still, gay rights

activists have criticized the administration for doing little to

push for a repeal during Obama's first year in office.

A Gallup poll earlier this month found 70 percent of American

favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly.

One organization dedicated to repealing the law urged supporters

to delay celebration. "President Obama's support and Secretary

Gates' buy-in should ensure a winning vote, but we are not there

yet," said Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and the executive

director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. "The votes

still need to be worked and counted."

The military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy came about in

1993 as a compromise between President Bill Clinton, who wanted to

lift the ban on gays entirely, and a reluctant Congress and

military, which said doing so would threaten order.

Under the policy, the military can't ask recruits their sexual

orientation. In turn, service members can't say they are gay or

bisexual, engage in homosexual activity or marry a member of the

same sex.

Between 1997 and 2008, the Defense Department discharged more

than 10,500 service members for violating the policy.