January 27th, 2010
06:03 PM ET
4 years ago

Obama to ask Congress to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

'Don't ask, don't tell' debate heats up; Obama mention expected .
'Don't ask, don't tell' debate heats up; Obama mention expected .

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama will ask Congress during his State of the Union address to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that bars gay men and lesbians from openly serving in the military, a senior administration official told CNN.

"He will do that straight out, and has been under more pressure from gay and lesbian Americans and others who don't support that policy to be more aggressive," Obama advisor David Axelrod told CNN. "He will ask the Congress to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell.'"

Earlier, the expectation that Obama would discuss the controversial policy had heavy-hitters on both sides of the issue lining up for a fight.

Full coverage: President Obama's State of the Union address

In a message to Pentagon leadership, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili said it's time to repeal the law.

"As a nation built on the principal of equality, we should recognize and welcome change that will build a stronger more cohesive military," said Shalikashvili. His letter was sent out Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, who supports repealing the policy.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, flatly disagreed with the idea of ending it.

"When it comes to 'don't ask don't tell,' frankly, I think it's worked very well. And we just ought to leave it alone," he said to reporters Wednesday morning.

The policy prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the U.S. armed forces. The policy bans military recruiters or authorities from asking about an individual's sexual orientation, but also prohibits a service member from revealing that he or she is gay.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Michigan, who told reporters on Monday that the president would discuss the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in his speech, supports ending the practice, but wants to go about it carefully. Levin said he did not have any details about what the President would say.

"If we do this in a way which isn't sensitive … we could have exactly the opposite effect of what I hope will be the case - which is to change the policy," he said Monday.

Levin said the committee plans to hold hearings on the issue in early February although the hearing may be with outside experts - delaying a hearing with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, that had originally been promised, CNN was told by a congressional source.

Obama campaigned on the promise that he would repeal the law in his first year of office. Speaking to the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, in October, Obama admitted that "our progress may be taking longer than we like," but he insisted his administration was still on track to overturn the policy.

"Do not doubt the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach," he said.

Spokesman Geoff Morrell deflected repeated questions about the policy at Wednesday's Pentagon briefing, directing reporters to take their questions to the White House.

"We continue to work on this problem," said Morrell. "But I'm not going to get into it with more specificity than that."

Updated: 6:03 p.m.

soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Michael from Ventura

    I hope that the President does fullfill his promise on this issue. Equality for ALL!

    January 27, 2010 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  2. Jinx Fannin

    We should leave the policy in place alone. Let's think about the military folks who have to live with others so closely.

    January 27, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  3. chicana

    I agree. L E A V E IT A L O N E, otherwise BO's ship will sink even further to the point of no return! ! !

    January 27, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  4. JonDie

    Any American should be able to serve; to not be able to serve is cleary unconstitutional...which I suppose is why Republicans are all for it, because Republicans don't believe in the U.S. Constitution.

    January 27, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  5. KC

    Don't ask Don't tell needs to be repealed if we really want equality in this country. I cannot beleive in the year 2010 that the military can so openly discriminate aganist Americans for sexual orientation. No other employer can do that , so why should the military be any different? It needs to be ended today.

    These are my beliefs and I am a White, middle-aged, married, hetrosexual, independent, woman from Hawaii.

    January 27, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  6. Bobert

    Though I'm very conservative, I think that "don't ask, don't tell" should be removed for the sole reason that the US should be mature enough to acknowledge homosexual people as equals. Seriously, the fact that a person prefers one gender over another for relationships should have no bearing on serving in the military. All it does is promote homophobism. If you're gay, who cares? As long as that person (man or woman) can cover my butt in a gun fight that's all I would care about.

    January 27, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  7. Grrr-Awful-O

    Yet another campaign promise that was quickly forgotten during the rush to the spending orgy.

    January 27, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  8. Michael Hsu

    A better policy is "No Gays, No Communists" in the US military.

    January 27, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  9. Bill in California

    LEAVE IT TO THE LEMMINGS to find ANOTHER cliff to dive over head first...go for it big O!

    January 27, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  10. harold

    In other words do not say much when in the military...huh?

    January 27, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  11. Preston kk

    Pkm when i was in viet mam a gay peRSON WOULD NEVER SAY HE WAS GAY HE WOULD BE TOssed ov of the military tell them to keep there mouth shut

    January 27, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  12. Marie

    Arent Republiscums always saying, "Let military leaders decide what is best for the military????"

    Now Boehner know best??????????? I think NOT!

    January 27, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  13. Rick

    It is without question that this is a hot button issue, and there are many that will not understand our objection. As a veteran, I was told that relationship is not a place for soldiers, we defend the nation and our focus is on that and that only. We train to instill discpline and restraint, the battle field require it and it is here where a man is defined. A bond is created among men that can not be amagine and they will face life and deaf together, fight amoung yourselfs on any other issue, but let us keep this, let us confront our enemy as a unit of men.

    January 27, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  14. Military Member

    It is time to end this discriminatory practice once and for all. For too long men and women have been fighting in our Armed Forces to protect the rights of people around the world while their own rights are withheld from them by politicians like John Boehner. We serve beside openly gay members of the military from England and Israel, two of our biggest allies, with no problem. We are stationed on bases in Iraq and Afghanistan with these nations, share living quarter and have common bathroom, and still no problems. The fear that is being spread by politicians opposed to ending this measure is nothing more than their hate. It is time to more forward, not backwards in this country.
    -A military member who could care less if the guy fighting beside me is gay!

    January 27, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  15. Dar

    I think people have begun to feel more at ease with gays since this all started up.
    The thing that worrys me is if a gay hits on a striaght person and they feel awkward towards it or embarresed, how would the armed forces handle this? Would it be sexual harassment?
    Would there be retaliation against the gay person?
    I dont know the answer to this one, very touchy subject.

    January 27, 2010 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  16. GGG

    Unless you are a service man or woman DO NOT COMMENT on this issue!!! Marriage is between a MAN and WOMEN... That's it... stop trrying to rearrange words and rights to fit your needs!!! Enough already!!!

    January 27, 2010 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  17. sgurdog

    What a surprise, the GOP wants to keep things status quo, just like everything else.

    January 27, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  18. JES

    I agree leave it alone everyting else you have tried is nothing but a mess that needs to be cleaned up.

    The decissions that Obama and the Dem's leadership has put this country at great risks.

    January 27, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  19. sgurdog

    I got news for the anti-gay crowd, when a soldier serves this county he/she is protecting the entire nation, not just those who share their beliefs. It is wrong and hateful to allow the military to act in such a manner as to hold itself more important than the principle of equality.

    January 27, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  20. Julie Thomas

    This is such a stupid, egotistical law. The only problem with gays in the military are the military men that are not gay. These hetrosexual men believe that their testrone is challenged if they work side by side with a gay man. GET OVER IT! If a true soldier follows the traits and values that are the very core of every service member then there would not even be an issue of gays/lesbians serving, the final goal of accomplishing the mission would be achieved.

    January 27, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  21. Julie Thomas

    This is such a stupid, egotistical law. The only problem with gays in the military are the military men that are not gay. These heterosexual men believe that their Testosterone is challenged if they work side by side with a gay man. GET OVER IT! If a true soldier follows the traits and values that are the very core of every service member then there would not even be an issue of gays/lesbians serving, the final goal of accomplishing the mission would be achieved.

    January 27, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  22. Vietnam Combat Veteran, Ohio

    Boehner, You need don't ask don't tell in congress. Don't ask you about your expensive golf outings, and you wouldn't tell either. Can't wait to vote your retarded butttt out of congress. LOSER

    January 27, 2010 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
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