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Embattled McCain faces down family rebellion over gays in the military

John McCain, the recently re-elected US Senator, army veteran and former presidential runner, appears to have quashed a political mutiny – not in the ranks of the Republican party, but within his own family.

Like his daughter Meghan, his wife Cindy has not always seen eye to eye with the Senator when it comes to gays in the military. But after appearing in a video apparently opposing her husband's view last week, Mrs McCain swiftly tweeted a political update that seemed to reverse her position.

The reasons behind her change of stance are unknown. But in Congress, Senator McCain is threatening to block a repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) law which allows gay people to be excluded from the military on the basis of their sexuality.

Mrs McCain's position has long appeared to be different. She and Meghan have lent their support to groups that advocate expanded rights for gays and lesbians.

Most notably, Cindy McCain last week surfaced as one of a number of celebrities appearing a video made by the group NOH8 seeking to raise awareness about the bullying of teenage gays and the recent spike in suicides among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teenagers because of bullying.

"Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future... They can't serve our country openly," she is seen saying in the video. Alluding to the bullies, she later says: "our Government treats the LGBT community like second-class citizens."

But soon afterwards she was offering a different view. At the end of last week, Cindy used her Twitter account to end speculation over a rift with her husband. "I fully support the NOH8 campaign and all it stands for and am proud to be a part of it," she said. "But I stand by my husband's stance on DADT."

Her contribution instantly raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill. Her husband has repeatedly expressed doubt about repealing the policy, a step that has the backing of the Obama administration and of Robert Gates, the Defense Secretary. A measure that would end it and thus allow gays and lesbians to serve openly and without conditions, is attached to a defence bill that Mr McCain is threatening to block.

Still, despite the apparent contradiction, the Senator insisted yesterday that his wife's free speech had not been compromised. "I respect the First Amendment rights of every member of my family," he said, adding that the two simply agreed that a study of the effect of the change on morale was essential.