In hosting a gay pride event Tuesday at
the White House, President Barack Obama promised to push for repeal
of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”
“We have never been closer to ending
this discriminatory policy and I'm gong to keep on fighting till that
bill is on my desk,” Obama told the crowd.
Late last month, the House approved a
version of the Defense Authorization Bill that includes Pennsylvania
Rep. Patrick Murphy's amendment that repeals the 1993 law that
forbids gay troops from serving openly. The Senate is expected to
take up the issue next month after the Senate Armed Services
Committee voted in favor of attaching similar repeal language to
their version of the defense bill.
Obama has previously promised to repeal
the policy that has ended the military careers of an estimated 13,000
gay and lesbian service members.
“I will end 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell',”
Obama said last October at a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign
(HRC), the nation's largest gay rights advocate. “That is my
commitment to you.”
Tuesday the president said successful
repeal of the law depends on Congress having the support of Defense
Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff.
“The only way to lock this in, the
only way to get votes of Congress to roll back this policy, is if we
work with the Pentagon who are in the midst of two wars,” he said.
Gates and Mullen testified before a
congressional committee earlier that they support repeal.
But speaking on Fox News Sunday,
Gates said that Obama probably still would veto the defense spending
bill if it includes defense projects labeled as wasteful.
“It would be a very serious mistake
to believe that the president would not veto a bill that has the C-17
or the alternative engine in it just because it had other provisions
that the president and the administration want,” Gates told Chris
Earlier Obama declared
June gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender pride month.
But even as Obama used the event to
highlight some of the gay rights initiatives advanced in his
administration – passage of a federal hate crimes law that includes
sexual orientation and gender identity, elimination of the HIV travel
ban and an order extending hospital visiting rights to gay couples –
gay activists say he's yet to deliver on meaningful issues.
Robin McGehee, co-founder of the gay
rights group GetEQUAL, told POLITICO.com that the Obama
administration has failed on the gay community's most pressing
The White House “has done little to
end the firings of gay and lesbian service members, place pressure on
Democratic leaders in Congress to pass ENDA, or advance legislation
to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.”
McGehee also criticized the
administration's “deafening silence” on gay-inclusive immigration
reform and passage of legislation that tackles the problem of
anti-gay, anti-transgender bias in the schools.
Speaking at a gay pride celebration
of State Hillary Clinton pledged to defend gay rights at home and