Sen. Joe Manchin questions whether Congress could or should move soon to repeal the federal ban on gays serving openly in the military.
The West Virginia Democrat told reporters Monday he does not know how he'd vote. But he cited the chiefs of the Army and Marines, who are opposed at least while troops are fighting in Afghanistan.
Manchin said he's also concerned about the potential cost, and the effect, on chaplains. He said a repeal could make it harder for clergy whose faiths consider homosexuality a sin.
The freshman senator said he sees reasons for and against a repeal. He also said it may be inevitable, based on testimony from top Pentagon officials.
Manchin joined the Senate November 15. He spoke to reporters during a wide-ranging conference call.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is predicting the "don't ask, don't tell" policy will be around for a while longer.
He addressed the matter in remarks to sailors Monday aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea. Gates said
that he was "not particularly optimistic" that Congress would overturn the policy soon, even though he wishes it would.
Senate Democrats want to vote this month to overturn the 1993 law, which bans gays from serving openly. But Republicans have blocked the proposal, insisting that Congress deal instead with tax cuts and spending.
Gates said he is concerned that Congress will drag its feet too long and federal courts will intervene.
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