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Cheney’s DADT comments show times they are a-changin'

Sunday on ABC News This Week, former Vice President Dick Cheney joined President Obama, Admiral Mullen, Secretary Gates, Gen. Powell and Gen. Shalikashvili in the growing chorus of support for repeal.

"Twenty years ago, the military were strong advocates of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' when I was Secretary of Defense. I think things have changed significantly since then. I think the society has moved on. I think it's partly a generational question."

Indeed times have changed since 1993. Support for repeal transcends the ideological and partisan divides of liberal vs. conservative, Republican vs. Democrat. As we saw in Friday's Washington Post/ABC News poll, 64 percent of Republicans back repeal. And the June 2009 Gallup Poll shows it's not just liberals who want DADT gone but a clear majority of conservatives too.

The former Vice President goes on to say that he doubts ending the ban will pose the risk to unit cohesion many feared almost 20 years ago.

"I say, I'm reluctant to second-guess the military in this regard, because they're the ones that have got to make the judgment about how these policies affect the military capability of our -- of our units. And that first requirement that you have to look at all the time is whether or not they're still capable of achieving their mission, and does the policy change, i.e., putting gays in the force, affect their ability to perform their mission? When the chiefs come forward and say, 'We think we can do it,' then it strikes me that it's -- it's time to reconsider the policy. And I think Admiral Mullen said that."

As the former Vice President indicated, we're also seeing a shift in the attitudes of our military culture. In the Feb. 10th Quinnipiac Poll, for example, 57 percent of military families agreed that lifting the ban would not be divisive or undermine military readiness. Also last week, the Reserve Officers Association, the nation's largest organization of retired U.S. military reserve officers, dropped its exclusion of gays and lesbians from the armed forces, and rejected a measure in support of retaining DADT.

With unprecedented growing popular support, ending DADT this year is not the political risk that some political operatives may still fear. The focus is now on the U.S. Senate, and rightly so. Senators, Democrats and Republicans, need to step up and get repeal done this year in the Defense authorization budget bill now moving through the Senate and House Armed Services Committees.

We urgently need more leadership in the Senate. Ask your senators to stand up and vote for repeal.