Reaction from gay leaders to President
Obama's Wednesday night reiteration that he'll work to drop the
military's gay ban has been lukewarm.
Obama made his remarks during his 2010
State of the Union address before a joint session of the U.S.
“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.”
The policy, also known as “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
The inclusion drew a standing ovation
from Democrats. But members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, seated
directly in front of the president, remained seated. Defense
Secretary Robert Gates joined Democrats in their praise.
“The time for talk is over. The time
for action is now,” Daniel W. Choi, a lieutenant in New York's Army
National Guard, said in a statement.
Choi outed himself during a television
interview last March, prompting the Army to discharge him.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
(SLDN), a group that lobbies for repeal of the law, applauded the
inclusion, but warned that there was a “sense of urgency to get
this done in 2010.”
“As Rep. Patrick Murphy and Sen.
[Kirsten] Gillibrand have made clear, this is the year to repeal the
law,” Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of SLDN, said.
Republicans, however, remain committed
to the law. Arizona Senator John McCain called the policy
“At a time when our Armed Forces are
fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to
abandon the policy,” McCain said in a statement released
immediately after the president's call for an end to the law.
“It would be a mistake to think this
law is working,” Sarvis responded. “No law or policy is
successful if it hurts military readiness at a time of two wars.”
Several gay leaders called the lack of
specifics from the president troubling, including Rea Carey,
executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Carey
said “the time for broad statements is over.”
How to repeal the law remains a
contentious issue, as well. Obama has dismissed calls for him to end
the law with an executive order, saying he is looking for a “durable
solution.” And Congressional action remains stalled. While both
houses of Congress have promised to look at the issue, hearings have
been postponed twice already. Whether Congress even has enough
support to approve a repeal bill remains doubtful, especially in the
Senate, where Democrats no longer hold a filibuster-proof majority.
Among Democrats, support for repeal
continues to grow. Candidate Obama promised to repeal the law. Last
night's promise was his second call as president. Obama attended a
gay fundraiser in October where he made a similar promise.
A House bill that would repeal the law
has attracted 187 mostly Democratic co-sponsors.
“When I visited Iraq and met our
soldiers there, I didn't see black or white, Democrats or
Republicans, gay or straight, I saw Americans who were willing to
serve their country,” Mike Quigley, a representative from Illinois,
“I look forward to the day when our
military both welcomes and celebrates the identities of all its
soldiers, and I remain committed to working with the president and my
colleagues to reconcile our policies with our fundamental ideals of
equality,” he added.
A UCLA study released Tuesday found
that the military has spent up to $500
million implementing the law. Approximately 66,000 gay men and
lesbians currently serve in the military, the study concluded.