The Moment

11|30|10: Washington

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The Pentagon asked, and the soldiers told. After surveying 115,052 troops and 44,266 spouses, the Defense Department has concluded that openly gay people can serve in the U.S. military without harming national security. Now the fate of the 17-year-old "Don't ask, don't tell" law--which the House voted to repeal in May--shifts to the Senate, only a quarter of whose members have worn the country's uniform. Senators share a conservatism with those frontline troops who fear that lifting the ban could hurt combat readiness amid two wars. "Part of it [is] inherent resistance to change when you don't know what's on the other side," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said of his troops. He could just as well have been speaking of the Senate. One of the chamber's elder statesmen, Arizona Republican John McCain, is leading the charge to keep the law intact. But gay troops hope the report will spark a change of heart. "I doubt I would run down the street yelling 'I'm out,'" said one gay soldier by way of the report's anonymous-comment channel. "But it would take a knife out of my back I have had for a long time."