January 25, 2011 at 8:07 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Obama to address ‘Don’t Ask’ in State of the Union

President Obama (photo courtesy whitehouse.gov)

President Obama intends to address legislative repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during his State of the Union address tonight, according to the White House.

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said in a news conference this afternoon that Obama would address “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to follow up on the mention of the military’s gay ban during the previous year’s State of the Union speech.

“The other thing he pledged a year ago … was the end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” Rhodes said. “So, in this speech, he’ll have the opportunity to say that this year, gay service men and women will be permitted to serve openly in the United States armed forces.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Rhodes’ comments indicated that Obama would commit to implementing full repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by the end of this year.

Legislation allowing for repeal of the military’s gay ban passed Congress and was signed last month by Obama, but  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” won’t be off the books until the president, the defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issue certification to Congress. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he won’t certify repeal until training is implemented for the U.S. military and the service chiefs are comfortable moving forward.

Rhodes said as part of the success of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, Obama will also call on colleges to allow military recruiters and ROTC programs on campuses. Some schools had barred the military from campus because “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” conflicted with their non-discrimination policies.

“This has been a divisive issue in the past, but he believes it’s time to move forward,” Rhodes said.

Early released excerpts from the president’s speech show that job creation and deficit reduction will be among the key points of the address.

“At stake right now is not who wins the next election — after all, we just had an election,” the president is set to say. “At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world. We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.”

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the theme for the State of the Union address this year will be “How We Win the Future” and that the president would focus on five pillars to achieve that goal: innovation, education, building, reform and responsibility.

“Many of the policies that he will talk about the House and the Senate working on over the next several years are ones that he believes we can make bipartisan progress on,” Gibbs said. “We may not agree on everything, but there’s certainly a great deal of common ground [we can find] in dealing with them.”

Gibbs said the State of the Union address for this year would be about the same length as the 2010 speech and that 80 percent of the speech will focus on domestic issues, while 20 percent will focus on foreign issues.

A number of LGBT rights supporters have been calling on Obama to announce support for same-sex marriage during his speech and to renew his commitment to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Neither issue was mentioned Tuesday during the news conference.

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

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