In his State of the Union address Wednesday night, President Obama once again promised to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy banning open homosexuals from serving in the military.
After lauding the October passage of hate crimes laws protecting homosexuality, Obama announced to cheers: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It’s the right thing to do.”
Military leaders present at the address did not applaud.
Mr. Obama told the gay lobby group Human Rights Campaign in October that, while overturning the law “may be taking longer than we like,” homosexualists should “not doubt the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach.”
In response to the Wednesday address, the HRC launched a media campaign to take down the law. “The Commander in Chief sent a clear message tonight that in a time of war, what matters is that our men and women get the job done – not whether they’re gay or straight,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese in a statement late Wednesday.
But Sen. John McCain, a former Navy pilot, said “it would be a mistake” to repeal the law.
“This successful policy has been in effect for over 15 years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels,” said McCain. “We have the best-trained, best-equipped, and most professional force in the history of our country, and the men and women in uniform are performing heroically in two wars. At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy.”
Some members of the homosexual lobby were dissatisfied with the president’s words, and questioned why Obama did not offer “concrete steps” to overturn the rule.
“While we know the State of the Union speech aims to present broad visions, the next time the president speaks to or about our community, he must provide a concrete blueprint for his leadership and action moving forward,” wrote the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian task force, Rea Carey, in an open letter immediately following the address. “The time to get down to business if overdue. We wish we had heard him speak of concrete steps in his address to Congress and the nation.”
Carey also urged President Obama to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would impose affirmative-action style rules on businesses for hiring homoesexuals, and to abolish the federal Defense of Marriage Act.