As Sen. Bill Nelson Struggles With DADT Decision, New Poll Finds Floridians Support Ending Policy

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL)

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL)

As Congressional Democrats try to determine whether they have enough votes to attach legislation repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) to this year’s defense authorization bill, a new poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign finds that Floridians support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. The strong public support could prove crucial to winning over the vote of Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), a moderate member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has not yet committed to supporting repeal.

According to the new survey, 69% of Florida voters support allowing gay men and lesbians to serve in the military, while just 21% oppose allowing gays to serve:

Human Rights Campaign says it is focusing on Florida because Nelson is one of six uncommitted U.S. senators being targeted for support.

“Sen. Nelson sits on the Armed Services Committee. That is going to be the first line of defense for action in the fight to repeal don’t ask, don’t tell,” said Allison Herwitt, HRC’s legislative director. “The Department of Defense authorization bill will be moving May 27. We’re expecting Sens. [Joe] Lieberman and [Carl] Levin to offer an amendment to repeal the discriminatory ban and Sen. Nelson’s vote is key.” […]

Nelson would support repeal subject to a study by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates of “how it will impact the military,” a spokesman said last month.

Nationwide, a majority of Americans support ending DADT. A recent Gallup Poll found that “70% continue to favor allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the military, with continued majority support from every key demographic subgroup,” including Republicans. The administration has refused to call for Congressional action until the Pentagon concludes its year-long review of the policy and has excluded repeal legislation from its defense budget. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), however, has promised to attach repeal to this year’s defense authorization bill if he has enough votes.