Obama promised about 3,000 gay
activists Saturday that he would end the military's ban on open gay
service, but offered no specifics, The New York Times
“I will end 'don't ask, don't tell',”
Obama said. “That is my commitment to you.”
The president made his remarks during a
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) fundraiser in Washington just hours
before thousands of gay activists will descend on the city to press
Congress – and the president – for action on gay rights
legislation at Sunday's National Equality March. HRC is the nation's
largest gay rights advocate.
“Don't ask, don't tell” is the 1993
law that prohibits gay and lesbian service members from revealing
their sexuality at the risk of losing their jobs. During the
presidential campaign Obama pledged to repeal the law but as
president has refused to sign an executive order that would end
military discharges while repeal legislation is debated in Congress,
saying he's looking for a “durable” solution from Congress.
Protesters outside the building, led by
Andy Thayer's Gay Liberation Network, held up banners urging the
president to live up to his campaign promises.
Inside the Walter E. Washington
Convention Center where Obama addressed the crowd for about 20
minutes reaction to the speech was mixed.
“For him, it's more time until he
needs our votes again,” Raj Malthotra, 29, told the paper.
Obama addressed his detractors head-on,
saying: “I appreciate that many of you don't believe progress has
come fast enough. Do not doubt the direction we are heading and the
destination we will reach.”
The president also called on Congress
to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law that bans
federal agencies from recognizing legal gay marriages, and extend
benefits to the spouses of federal employees.