January 27th, 2010
06:03 PM ET
8 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. Dutch the Great

    If Boehner says leave the law alone, then he doesn't believe in equality.

    January 27, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  2. Tom L.

    That's smart. Take up this issue because President Obama has taken up enough controversial issues.

    This president has no idea how to read a room at all...

    January 27, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  3. gt

    this is a lone voice ...shalikashvill was a very poor leader when he was with clinton... this needs to be left up to the active military ,, not politicans or there coronies ...why obama changes like a yo – yo is driving nuts,, i like the guy but his values are imoral and direction is flawed,,,

    January 27, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  4. androloma

    As a veteran, I believe in the old policy. Homosexuals have no more right than heterosexuals to be indiscrete. I would never want to serve in a foxhole or side-by-side with someone who may desire me as much as my wife does. The military doesn't need masculine females or effeminate males. The military needs people willing to do what the general populace considers themselves too good to do.

    If homosexuals are entitled to their preferences, then so am I. And I prefer NOT to be exposed to a deviate perversion from a flamboyant dandy while I'm trying to perform my job. And it's sure not physically stunted work like office duties, either.

    January 27, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  5. Fred Riek

    Surprise, surprise, repugnican representative Bonehead from Ohio disagrees with the Democratic President. How unique, a repugnacan disaggreing with something our President wants to do. I hope enough people realize that the Repugnant Party is our bigges enemy in trying to defeat our U.S. President so they can claim he has faqiled at everything. Please rmember voters, it is the Republicans who are working against us all by refusing to help us out of the mess that their Party put us in.

    January 27, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  6. Cathy in AZ

    If the military leaders in the field are calling for an end to this horrible practice then I see no reason why it should not end. Figures the leadership ( and I use that word figuratively) of the GOP would object.

    January 27, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    Cue broken-record conservative bigots...3...2...1...

    January 27, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  8. Linda

    Awesome! More homophobia from the Right Wing-Nuts! What a shocker!

    January 27, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  9. Allowing a Monopoly doesnt bring down prices

    Its working for Boehner,hes still in the closet.

    January 27, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  10. Willy Brown

    Gays only looking at free care.

    January 27, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  11. ricky

    it is time to end the ban on gays in the military. all of our allies allow gays including israel.

    January 27, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  12. Monster Zero

    Draft Barney Frank! Do it NOW, it will scare the Taliban and Al Qaieda into surrender!

    January 27, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  13. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I am of the opinion that if people want to serve in the military, then they should do so if the physical and mental requirements are met. I don't care if someone is hetero or homosexual; if the want to and can serve our country in the military, then they should be allowed to; homosexuals are no more or less trustworthy than anyone else.

    January 27, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  14. annie s

    Repeal the law. And then make gay marriage legal. It's disgraceful that a nation "built on the principal of equality" denies equal rights to ANY of its citizens.

    January 27, 2010 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  15. Average American

    Let me get this straight (sorry for the pun), the Republicans don't have a problem with gays in the military, they just don't want anyone talking about it. This is such a silly law. We already have gay and lesbian service members who are honorably protecting us every day.

    January 27, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  16. Liz

    How can we ask anyone to fight for freedom when we deny freedom to a whole segment of our citizens? The country has no business discriminating against gay people in eligibility for military service, or marriage. It's just wrong. How many valuable people have we kicked out already? it's weakening our military and giving aid and comfort to the enemy. It has to stop now!

    January 27, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  17. Shane Las vegas

    This country is messed up. If a citizen of the United States want to serve our country but can not because he or she is gay. Homosexuals are not second class citizens. EVERYBODY, per the Constitution, are to be treated as equals. They pay taxes and contribute to society and bring a lot of money into our economy. This country should be ashamed of themselves. All that we ask for is to be treated as equals. I am gay and proud of it. I do not choose to be gay, but I am and I want to be treated EQUALLY

    January 27, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  18. LIP

    Who really cares about whether or not the guy next to you is gay or straight?
    What we need to care about is jobs and now Obama is going to cut the NASA budget. Cutting this will eliminate the Ares rocket, the rocket designed to replace the shuttles,. It will eliminate Lunar landings, moon bases and all the spin offs of these types of programs. I think he said he wanted to expand science in our schools...this is a contradiction to that statement. With that, he wants to outsource these programs, kind of like sending more jobs overseas and more unemployment for us.
    Write or call your Senator now.

    January 27, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  19. ATL Guy

    Why even bother quoting the Republican. All you had to do was say is: "As usual the Republicans said NO!!!!!"

    January 27, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  20. Felonious Monk


    The Spartans encouraged homosexuality because they felt you would fight harder for the one you love. When you think about it, it only makes sense...

    January 27, 2010 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  21. Jane/Seattle

    I think these meddling people need to get to more important business! Mind your own business and GET OUT OF PEOPLES' BEDROOMS, Boehner! Graham, too! How come you did not throw out Mr. Wide Stance right away? Oh, it's OK to cheat, just don't dare be different?!

    I think the KILLING that these Right Wingers/others support all over this World is a HEINOUS CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY! Many folks who love in their own way have High Skills and Abilities to Offer. You know where you can stick your morals – At the Hague! Peace

    January 27, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  22. wels4est

    Don't ask, Don't tell goes hand-in-hand with the purity clause. Purity implies exclusiveity... the exclusive club of pure GOP has no place in this country and keeping gays out of the military has no place in this country either.

    January 27, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  23. Centrist

    It is past time to end the
    misguided policy of DADT. Our nation cannot afford to lose valuable servicemen & women, who serve our country with honor.

    Too many of the releases have been Arabic translators critical to our mission. End discrimination and uphold the principles of equality for all Americans.

    God bless the USA

    January 27, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  24. HUH

    Obama campaigned on the promise that he would repeal the law in his first year of office.

    The first year is up....

    January 27, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  25. special kay

    I don't understand what everyone is so afraid of. We are in the midst of two wars and constantly losing decent servicemen/women because of their lifestyle (which is none of our business). It shouldn't matter what sex one prefers but rather can they uphold the oath they took to protect, serve and defend the Constitution. Really, people is this country need to get off of their moral high ground and understand that we need ALL Americans on board not just a select few. GROW UP

    January 27, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
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