January 27, 2010 at 9:00 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Obama pledges to work this year to end "Don’t Ask" in State of the Union

President Barack Obama (DC Agenda photo by Michael Key)

President Obama pledged during his State of the Union address to work this year to repeal the ban preventing gays from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces.

“This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are,” Obama said.

The State of the Union address on Wednesday marks the first time Obama has set a time for when he would tackle his 2008 campaign pledge to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Lawmakers attending Obama’s speech responded to his declaration with roaring applause.

Obama offered new details on his promise to repeal the law in a portion of his speech on the advancement of civil rights in his administration.

In the same part of the speech, Obama also touted how the nation has strengthened “laws to protect against crimes driven by hate,” presumably a reference to the passage last year of a federal hate crimes law protecting LGBT people.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, praised Obama for renewing his pledge to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in a statement released following his speech.

“The Commander in Chief sent a clear message tonight that in a time of war, what matters is that our men and women get the job done — not whether they’re gay or straight,” he said.

Solmonese said HRC will work to support Obama in his pledge to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” through its “Voices of Honor campaign” — an HRC-led initiative geared toward building public support for ending the law.

The campaign will work organize veterans across the country, generate media coverage and build focused campaigns in key states critical to final votes in Congress, according to the HRC statement.

Also commending Obama for pledging to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010 is Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Paul DeMiglio, spokesperson for the organization, said “we very much need a sense of urgency” to make repeal happen this year.

“As Rep. Patrick Murphy and Sen. [Kirsten] Gillibrand have made clear, this is the year to repeal the law,” DeMiglio said. “What is also needed is more attention and leadership to win repeal. The American public, including conservatives, is overwhelmingly with the commander-in-chief on this one.”

DeMiglio said SLDN is calling on Obama to include repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as part of his defense budget request that the Pentagon is expected to deliver to Congress next month.

Murphy, the Pennsylvania Democrat who sponsors the repeal bill in the U.S. House, also applauded Obama for making the commitment to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“While we increase our forces to fight terrorism, it makes no sense to kick out fighter pilots, medics, and Arabic linguists at the rate of nearly two servicemembers a day,” Murphy said. “It is time to repeal this ridiculous law that hurts our national security and military readiness.”

Another topic Obama mentioned of interest to many LGBT people is comprehensive immigration reform. Obama asked Congress to find a bipartisan solution to the immigration problems facing the country.

“We should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system — to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nations,” Obama said.

Many same-sex bi-national couples are looking to Congress to pass immigration reform this year and to include a provision that would allow LGBT Americans to sponsor their foreign partners for residency. Current law prevents an estimated 36,000 bi-national couples from staying together in the United States.

Steve Ralls, spokesperson for Immigration Equality, said the inclusion of immigration reform in the State of the Union address is “a welcome sign.”

“The White House has said in the past that they support ending discrimination against gay immigrant families and we expect that to be the case moving forward as well,” Ralls said. “Immigration reform is something that both progressives and conservatives agree needs to be tackled, so it makes sense to keep with the pledge to move forward on that as soon as possible.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • I will believe it when I see it.

  • WOW! Virginia Governor supports repealing DADT and also supports gay marriage?? LOL

    “…where opportunity is unequal, we must make it open to everyone.”

  • “I will believe it when I see it.”

    QFT. By now we should have moved beyond the point where a mention in passing and a little tokenism sufficed to make a politician our hero.

  • Testimony at the Prop 8 trial by Political Science expert/professor claimed that political definition of an ally means they will sail into stiff winds of opposition for you, like the ACLU etc. Said that Obama is the PERFECT EXAMPLE of an unreliable ally. Here is the bloggers’ quick transcript:
    Defendant-Intervenors’ Counsel Thompson continues his cross-examination of Plaintiffs’ Expert Witness Professor Gary Segura.

    Thompson moves admission of HRC annual report, DIX 1331
    OBJECTION as to statement of fact. (Objections are very hard to hear as attorneys don’t approach the mike)

    JUDGE WALKER: These documents provide a basis for the witnesses testimony, and the document is what it is. Whether I take judicial notice or admit it, it is what it is.
    T: Play clip of Obama’s speech
    Walker: Oh this is the 20th of January, isn’t it?
    Obama talking his fierce advocacy fight in front of the Human Rights Campaign dinner last year. “I’m here with you in this fight. You will see a time when your relationships are recognized.”
    Obama:: “Nobody should be fired from their job because they are gay if they are doing the job they were hired to do.”
    Obama: “If my nominees are attacked for who they are, I will not waver in my support.”
    Obama: Bunch of ‘working with the Pentagon and the HIll on DADT. I WILL END DADT!”
    [Crowd at HRC dinner goes wild]

    Thompson: Using your definition of political ally, does Obama count?
    SEgura: Given my concerns about unreliabibility of allies, he is THE BEST EXAMPLE of an ally who cannot be relied on. Surely we can agree that there is a big difference between giving a nice speech and fighting for real rights.
    Thompson: So you think he is not an ally?

    Segura: He opposes marriage equality; he continues to dismiss people from the military he heads; when prop 8 sister resolution emerged in the state of MAINE, OFA sent emails asking for calls into New Jersey and Virginia but nothing for Maine, or Washington. With the possible exception of HRC, most gay rights orgs think Obama is a particularly disappointing ally.
    T: Signing ceremony in the rose garden for hate crimes?
    S: FOr the defense authorization bill. Prez Obama is a very good speech maker.
    T Has he introduced legislation favoring LGBT?
    S: Strictly speaking the pres doesn’t do that but if he did that would be a sign.
    T: Pledged to sign ENDA
    S: Yes I heard the video
    T: And it has passed the House
    S: Yes
    T DiFi a soft ally
    S Yes
    And you would define a reliable ally, you would say they would seet aside alternatives and sail into stiff winds
    S: Yes, as opinion polls have waned in support of Obama, the Speaker has indicated that the House would not take up social legislation until the Senate does. Also setting aside ENDA or DADT or DOMA — there are other priorities, would endangerour coalition behind other bill x or other bill y.

  • There are times when it’s nice to see a politician playing nice with everyone. There are times when a leader has to be more than nice and drag people kicking and screaming to do the right thing.

    I’m sorry to say that while I still think Obama is better than McLoser would have been, Obama is looking like a wimp.

  • Although I am all for ending DADT, I’m not in the military and ending it would not help advance any of my civil rights. I’m disappointed that the President ignored discrimination in marriage, insurance, tax, housing, etc., etc. Unless I see substantial improvement in these matters, I will not be a Democrat at the next election.

  • I would definitely like to see DADT repealed, and it should be a priority, but ENDA is much more important and will make a diffeence for more people in our community. Obama has proven that he is all talk and no action, or in some cases, such as upholding the rotten Defense of Marriage Act, his administration actually works against us. If he wanted to he would issue a stop loss order preventing the discharge of gay & lesbian service members until Congress changes the law. All he did was give us more lip service, and what good is that when some of the Dems in Congress are already making excuses about why they don’t think they can pass ENDA or the Domestic Benefits & Obligations Act. Mark my words, if the Dems don’t at least bring these bills up for a vote, my partner and I will turn our backs on them. Not that we will vote for Republicans, God forbid, but we will not give them another dime, won’t volunteer them, and will likewise stay home on election day if there aren’t any deserving Democrats who have proven themselves to vote for on the ballot. So far, its looking pretty bad for Obama in our book, and the same can be said for both of our Virginia senators Webb & Warner, both of whom refuse to sign on as sponsors for ENDA, DPBO or the repeal of DADT. If they vote against us on these bills why should we vote for their re-election??? And that goes for the rest of the Dems in Congress; lets just call it tough love.

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