In its clearest signals yet, the Obama
administration appears prepared to punt repeal of “don't ask, don't
tell,” the policy that bans gay troops from serving openly, until
While President Obama renewed his
commitment Monday to ending the law that prescribes discharge for gay
and lesbian service members who do not remain celibate or closeted,
he made certain to choose his words carefully.
“We are going to do that,” Obama
answered a protester who asked: “What about 'don't ask, don't
“I agree,” he said after members of
GetEQUAL continued to disrupt his speech at a California fundraiser
for fellow Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer. The president also chided
the protesters, saying they should be yelling at someone who does not
agree with repeal of the law.
However, unlike in his first State of
the Union Address, Obama failed to add that he was committed to
repealing the law this year.
“This year,” he said in January, “I
will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law.”
The White House has since implied that
it is no longer committed to reversing the policy this year.
Last week, Aubrey Sarvis, the executive
director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group that
lobbies for repeal of the law, alleged that the Obama administration
is quietly campaigning against repeal this year.
“I am very disturbed by multiple
reports from Capitol Hill that your Congressional liaison team is
urging some Members of Congress to avoid a vote on repeal this year,”
Sarvis wrote in a letter addressed to the president.
“The upcoming House and Senate votes
will be close, and very frankly, Mr. President, we need your help
On Wednesday, however, Press Secretary
Robert Gibbs poured cold water on Sarvis' plea, saying that the
president is committed to “a process and a proposal” that
includes seeing through a military review of how best to implement
changes should Congress repeal the law. The study – ordered by
Defense Secretary Robert Gates – is due in December.
Commitment to the study runs counter to
repeal this year. Most supporters concede passage in the Senate will
be difficult and had hoped to avoid a direct confrontation by tucking
repeal language into next year's defense budget.
Sarvis warned that the window for such
action is closing quickly.
“The train is leaving,” he told The
Advocate. “We could have key votes before the Memorial Day
Last month, openly gay Massachusetts
Representative Barney Frank sounded a similar alarm when he called on
the president to make it clear that he supports repeal of the law
“The administration has been
ambiguous about it, and that ambiguity has allowed some to interpret
Secretary Gates' argument for a delay in implementation as a delay in
adopting the legislation,” Frank said.
In leading a protest
outside the White House gates on Tuesday, Lt. Dan Choi, one of
the most visible opponents of the policy, called on the president to
add repeal language into the defense budget.
“If the president were serious about
keeping his promise to repeal this year, he would put the repeal
language in his Defense Authorization budget,” he said.