White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated on Wednesday that President Obama is committed to the “process” the Pentagon put in place for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal while suggesting the president is punting to Congress the decision on whether to take legislative action this year.
Fielding questions from The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld, Gibbs said the president is committed to the Pentagon working group study on determing how to implement open service, which is due December 1.
Asked whether commitment to this study rules out action from Congress on repeal this year, Gibbs replied, “The House and the Senate are obviously a different branch of government.”
Gibbs also responded to an civil disobedience that took place on Tuesday in which six LGBT former service members chained themselves to the White House fence in protest over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and were subsequently arrested.
Acknowledging the president “made a commitment in the presidential campaign” to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Gibbs said Obama realizes “the passion that people hold the belief that all should be able to serve.”
“The president wants to see this law changed, just as you’ve heard the chair of the Joint Chiefs and others in the military say that it’s time for that change to happen,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs also responded to how the White House reportedly ejected media from Lafayette Park on Tuesday to block them from covering the act of civil disobedience.
The Park Police has since taken responsbility for blocking media coverage, saying it was an error and the White House wasn’t involved in the decision.
“The White House and the Secret Service did not have any role in that decision-making and I think the Park Police has taken — rightly taken responsibility,” Gibbs said.
The transcript of the exchange is below:
Q: The president was heckled pretty persistently on Monday night about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. Six LGBT veterans chained themselves to the White House gates yesterday — I think you actually saw it. All of these actions —
Gibbs: I was walking through the park at that time.
Q: You were walking, just a casual walk through the park. Were you pushed back by Park Police — no, I’m just kidding.
Gibbs: I will say — can I mention the Park Police?
Q: Yes, sure.
Gibbs: I think many people I’ve seen, and I think we were asked yesterday the role in which the White House played in that. Obviously the Park Police has — rightly took responsibility for some overzealous actions; they corrected those — albeit belatedly. The White House and the Secret Service did not have any role in that decision-making and I think the Park Police has taken — rightly taken responsibility.
Q: Let me get back to the question. So there was the heckling on Monday night, there’s the veterans yesterday at the White House gates handcuffing themselves to the fence. All of these actions are aimed at getting repeal this year, something the White House has sort of declined to commit to since the State of the Union address. Has the White House misjudged the level of patience among LGBT and grassroots activists on this?
Gibbs: No. Again, I would remind anybody on this issue — look, first of all, I will say this. Obviously the president made a commitment in the presidential campaign, and understands the passion that people hold the belief that all should be able to serve. The president holds that belief, too.
But I would remind folks that wasn’t a belief that the president held in 2007 — that’s a belief that the president held in running for the Senate as far back as 2003.
The president has made and is committed to making this changed law. I don’t think he’s underestimated the — as you said, the patience of some. The president wants to see this law changed, just as you’ve heard the chair of the Joint Chiefs and others in the military say that it’s time for that change to happen.
Q: But he’s committed to them letting the Pentagon work through its working group process until December 1st, is that true? He’s committed to that?
Gibbs: Yes. The president has set forward a process with the Joint — the Chair of the Joint Chiefs and with the Secretary of Defense to work through this issue.
Q: Before any legislative action is taken — that rules out legislative action this year?
Gibbs: Well, again — the House and the Senate are obviously a different branch of government. The president has a process and a proposal I think that he believes is the best way forward to seeing, again, the commitment that he’s made for many years in trying to — changing that law.