Expected today is "the most important vote in the history of the gay civil rights movement," says one activist: The repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell is likely coming before the Senate. Will Lady Gaga's rally yesterday help or hurt?

At 2:15pm today, Republicans are expected to filibuster a defense bill that includes the eventual repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and also provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came as children and enlisted. Led by John McCain, Republicans are claiming that it's too soon to vote on Don't Ask Don't Tell pending the results of a Pentagon study on the effects of a repeal. Politico says McCain "thundered" his opposition: "The fix is in. It's railroading it through without a proper assessment on the morale and effectiveness of our military."

Because Senate Democrats lack the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster, they need Republicans to cross the aisle for this one, and the moderate ladies of Maine are the target. That's why Gaga was in Portland, Maine yesterday, rallying about two thousand people and connecting meat dresses and equal rights.

"Equality is the prime rib of what we stand for as a nation," she said. "Shouldn't everyone deserve the right to wear the same meat dress that I get?"

Here's the video from the event. Watch for the creepy pop-in from Terry Richardson, who hovers behind her and snaps pictures of the crowd.

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She proposed that soldiers who are unwilling to serve alongside gays and lesbians GTFO: "If you are not honorable enough to fight without prejudice, go home." For all of her popularity, it's not clear that this is the type of argument that will really sway some moderate Senators from Maine, or any homophobes in the military for that matter. Then again, putting the burden of change or acceptance not on the gay soldiers but on the prejudiced is a welcome shift.

The debate today is complicated by another hot-button issue, immigration rights, with the inclusion of an amendment that would grant a path to citizenship for soldiers who were brought to this country as children without authorization. According to Politico,

"This is kind of like the shootout at the O.K. Corral. Democrats and Republicans are all kind of at the fence trying to figure out who's going to shoot first," said Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum. His group supports efforts by Reid to use the bill as a vehicle to pass the DREAM Act, a measure that would grant legal status to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors and later enrolled in college or the military.

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Democrats are simultaneously worried about going too far to alienate moderates before the midterm elections ā€” and also pissing off two key constituencies, gays and Latinos. McCain said as much: "To use the defense bill ... to pursue a social agenda and a legislative agenda to galvanize voting blocs ... is reprehensible."

As of this morning, Representative Susan Collins said she wants to vote yes on the repeal, but only if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lets in more amendments on the bill than what he's initially granted. Said Armed Services Committee chair Carl Levin, " I just don't know if the votes are there." We'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, here are some more photos from the event:

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Don't Ask Don't Tell Showdown Looming In The Senate [Time]
Lady Gaga Goes Political In Maine [NYT]
'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Vote Set For Today [WP]
Don't Ask, Don't Tell Vote Hangs On Moderates [Politico]

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Images via Smolls In Real Life.