Mon, Oct 12, 2009 - Page 1 News List

‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ military policy must stop: Obama

AP , WASHINGTON

US President Barack Obama reaffirmed his campaign pledge to end the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military, but offered no timetable or specifics for acting on that promise.

Obama acknowledged in a speech on Saturday that some policy changes he promised on the campaign trail had not coming as quickly as they expected.

“I will end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Obama said, prompting a standing ovation from the crowd of about 3,000 at an annual dinner held by the Human Rights Campaign gay rights group.

The law was passed by Congress in 1993 and signed by US President Bill Clinton, who also promised to repeal the ban on homosexuals in the military but was blunted by opposition in the military and Congress.

Obama said he’s working with Pentagon and congressional leaders to end the policy.

“We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve the country,” Obama said. “We should be celebrating their willingness to step forward and show such courage ... especially when we are fighting two wars.”

Obama said it was no secret “our progress may be taking longer than you’d like.”

He followed this by asking supporters to trust his administration’s course.

“I also appreciate that many of you don’t believe progress has come fast enough,” Obama said. “Do not doubt the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach.”

Some advocates said they had heard Obama’s promises — now they want a time line.

Cleve Jones, a pioneer activist and creator of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, said Obama delivered a brilliant speech, but “it lacked the answer to our most pressing question, which is when.”

“He repeated his promises that he’s made to us before, but he did not indicate when he would accomplish these goals and we’ve been waiting for a while now,” said Jones, national co-chair of a major gay-rights rally that was expected to draw thousands of gay and lesbian activists to the National Mall yesterday.

Obama also called on Congress to repeal the Defense Of Marriage Act, which limits how state, local and federal bodies can recognize partnerships and determine benefits. He also called for a law to extend benefits to domestic partners.

He expressed strong support for the Human Rights Campaign agenda — ending discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people — but stopped short of laying out a detailed plan for how to get there.

“My expectation is that when you look back on these years you will look back and see a time when we put a stop [to] discrimination ... whether in the office or the battlefield,” Obama said.

Obama’s message on Saturday was one of unity and support for a group that has funneled large amounts of money into Democratic coffers.

“I’m here with a simple message: I’m here with you in that fight,” Obama said.

Obama also addressed those who do not favor advancing gay rights.

A recent Pew Research Center poll asked about homosexual behavior, and about half said it is morally wrong.

“There’s still laws to change and there’s still hearts to open,” Obama said.

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