In Tuesday's State of the Union,
President Obama reiterated his commitment to lifting “Don't Ask,
Don't Tell” this year.
Congress agreed to end the law that
bans gay troops from serving openly during last month's lame-duck
session, but implementation won't happen until top Pentagon officials
and Obama certify that the military is ready for the change.
“Our troops come from every corner of
this country – they are black, white, Latino, Asian and Native
American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim,” Obama
told Congress and the nation. “And, yes, we know that some of them
are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from
serving the country they love because of who they love. And with
that change, I call on all of our colleges campuses to open their
doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC. It is time to leave
behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward
as one nation.”
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the largest group which
lobbied for repeal of the law, urged the government to end the policy
in the first quarter of 2011.
“We need to make 'Don't Ask' repeal a
reality sooner rather than later,” Sarvis said in a statement.
“It is also encouraging to see that
the President and First Lady recognize that LGBT troops are very much
part of the fabric of our military families. However, we need to
bring more visibility and awareness to that reality too,” he added.
Joe Solmonese, president of the gay
rights group Human Rights Watch (HRC), also praised the president for
his support of repeal, but added that inequities remain.
“Not only does repeal mean troops
will be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, but our
nation will be stronger with the best and brightest able to serve in
uniform,” he said. “Tonight is the culmination of a promise kept
by this President.”
“With discrimination in the military
soon behind us, there remain a number of pressing issues for the
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community when it comes to
economic security. The President and Congress can do much more to
ensure the economic empowerment of LGBT people including ending the
unfair taxation of partner health benefits, prohibiting workplace
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender
identity, and ensuring that all married couples have access to the
same federal benefits and protections for their families.”