NOTE: (I’ll share my thoughts tomorrow, after I’ve had a good night’s sleep and time to read it, since I spent most of the time handling blog posts and back end stuff). A user poll is already up at the WaPo: Don’t ask, don’t tell: Is Obama right to call for repeal?

I’ll add these as they come in…


We applaud the President tonight for his call to Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year.  We very much need a sense of urgency to get this done in 2010.  We call on the President to repeal the archaic 1993 law in his defense budget currently being drafted, that is probably the only and best moving bill where DADT can be killed this year. As Rep. Patrick Murphy and Sen. Gillibrand have made clear, this is the year to repeal the law. What is also needed is more attention and leadership to win repeal. The American public, including conservatives, is overwhelmingly with the commander in chief on this one.

Servicemembers United:

“Tonight, President Obama stepped up to the plate and made a firm commitment to work to finally end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in 2010,” said Alexander Nicholson, founder and Executive Director of Servicemembers United. “Although brief, his language was plain, his message was clear, and the outline of his strategy was smart. This effort will indeed be a challenge for our community, and the resistance of those who support discrimination in our armed forces should not be underestimated. But one thing is now clear – a full assault on this failed law is now under way by those who recognize that discrimination is not an American value.”

Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-8th District) issued the following statement tonight:

“I’m glad that President Obama is calling for Congress to repeal the wrongful policy known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, as he did repeatedly on his campaign.  It is ridiculous that American taxpayers have spent $1.3 billion to kick brave, talented Americans out of the military simply because of their sexual orientation.  In the last year, we’ve committed more servicemembers to fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.  While we increase our forces to fight terrorism, it makes no sense to kick out fighter pilots, medics, and Arabic linguists at the rate of nearly 2 servicemembers a day.  It is time to repeal this ridiculous law that hurts our national security and military readiness.”

Congressman Patrick Murphy is the first veteran of the Iraq War elected to Congress.  A former Captain in the 82nd Airborne division, he was awarded the Bronze Star for service in Iraq. Murphy represents the 8th District of Pennsylvania.

Michelangelo Signorile via Twitter:

Shorter SOTU: “America will not be 2nd class, but it’s gays will be for a while, unless I get a around to it ‘this year.'” #sotu

Human Rights Campaign, which also announced a campaign to end DADT — “Voices of Honor”  will organize veterans across the country, generate media coverage and build focused campaigns in key states that will be critical to the final votes in the House and Senate.

“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. “Our ‘Voices of Honor’ campaign will bring about much needed action to end this law that the vast majority of Americans oppose.”

The “Voices of Honor” campaign will expand on HRC’s field and legislative efforts through: an on-the-ground campaign manager in key states to build diverse local coalitions; public education through innovative media campaigns; activating grassroots contacts with Members of Congress; an online hub for action on repeal; and partnering with other key groups working on repeal including Center for American Progress, Servicemembers United and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

“Our country simply cannot afford this discriminatory law that hurts military readiness by denying patriotic men and women the opportunity to serve,” said Solmonese. “Ridding our laws of discrimination that weakens our national security will require continued leadership from the President as well as Congressional allies.”

Statement by Evan Wolfson, Executive Director of Freedom to Marry:

“President Obama’s pledge to end discrimination against gay people serving in the military, repeated in tonight’s State of the Union, is an important show of support for gay and lesbian Americans as well as a boost to our national security.  Unfortunately, the President failed to address the government’s discrimination against same-sex couples in his speech.  The President spoke about the concerns of Americans across the country, from unemployment to access to good schools and adequate healthcare.  Millions of gay and lesbian Americans share these same concerns and struggles, but also bear the extra burden of exclusion from marriage and the denial of legal protection in the workplace and at home.  Particularly in a time of immense economic challenges, government should not put obstacles in the path of any committed couple seeking to take care of their loved ones.  Freedom to Marry calls on the President to keep his promises and ensure the stability and security of all American families by working with Congress to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which would end the government’s policy of singling out married same-sex couples for discriminatory treatment under federal law.  We also urge the President to keep his repeated promises to work with Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Nathaniel Frank, author of Unfriendly Fire and a senior fellow at the Palm Center on the President’s reference to DADT (via The Advocate):

“That’s certainly a step beyond saying it in front of a bunch of gay donors…My concern has been all year that the president is dithering – that’s a political mistake and an operational mistake…People of bad faith can exploit the opening and turn this into a culture war battle,” he said, “and make no mistake, they can win this if people of good faith think they can coast along or show up every once in a while with a vague reiteration.”

More below the fold…Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

“President Obama tonight vowed this year to work with Congress and the military to finally repeal the reprehensible ban on openly lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. While we know the State of the Union speech aims to present broad visions, the next time President Obama speaks to or about our community, he must provide a concrete blueprint for his leadership and action moving forward – this includes his willingness to stop the discharges happening on his watch until Congress can fulfill its responsibility to overturn the law. The time for broad statements is over. The time to get down to business is overdue. We wish we had heard him speak of concrete steps tonight.

“‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is unnecessary, unfair and immoral. It undermines military readiness and discriminates against brave and patriotic men and women eager and willing to serve their country. We once again call upon the president and Congress to act quickly and decisively to finally repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ It’s long past time to place fairness above foot-dragging.

“Until that happens, the state of the union for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans will largely remain one of inequality and discrimination. Indeed, it is a disgrace that patriotic service members are still being discharged under the president’s watch, LGBT employees nationwide are still being fired for nothing other than bias, and marriage inequality relegates our families to second-class status. If the president is truly serious about job creation and boosting the economic well-being of Americans, he must provide leadership and action in ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and eliminating the potent economic disparities imposed by the unjust federal marriage ban. Our country can and must do better. We urge the president to pave the way.”

Geoff Kors, Equality California:

“We appreciate President Obama reiterating his commitment to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but words do not end discrimination – actions do,” said Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors. “We call on President Obama to immediately cease discharging openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members and to take a stand for equality in the military. Thousands of LGBT service members have bravely served our nation, and they deserve the same protections as all Americans. We urge President Obama and Congress to act swiftly to overturn this discriminatory policy.”

Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director of Lambda Legal:

“We have heard promises before about ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and we welcome the President’s statement tonight that the time has finally come to fulfill that promise. Very little has changed since Lambda Legal represented Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer 18 years ago after she was discharged for being a lesbian. Changing this discriminatory policy is long overdue.

“The military is our nation’s largest employer and this government sanctioned discrimination must end. We will continue to advocate for the repeal of DADT so that gay and lesbian services members and their families can serve openly and with the same support afforded to other military families.”

Statement by New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn:

“Tonight, in his State of the Union speech, President Obama asked Congress to repeal the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. I applaud him on taking an important step and for recognizing that patriotic LGBT Americans can serve their country as well as all others.

“I urge Congress to immediately vote to repeal this unnecessary and harmful policy. Congress should join Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili, USA (Ret.), and more than 100 retired admirals and generals who support repeal. This policy has forced out more than 13,500 brave LGBT men and women from serving in our armed forces. These citizens should be respected for who they are, as they volunteered to put their lives on the line to serve and protect our great nation.

“I look forward to working with the New York Congressional delegation in asking other members of Congress to pass this measure quickly.”

Family Equality Council’s Executive Director Jennifer Chrisler calls on the President to fulfill his promises to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination act and repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”:

Scott Hines, a gay parent who served ten years, rising to the rank of Major, in the U.S. Air Force explained the excruciatingly painful choice LGBT service members who are parents face under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”:

I was forced to make an impossible choice. If I declared to the Air Force the two children I adopted with my same-sex partner, I would be discharged from the military – denied the opportunity to serve my country, to pursue the career I love, and to support my family. If I chose not to declare my adopted children, I would subject myself to potential criminal charges and also leave them without the legal or financial protections so critical to families of service members who serve in harm’s way. These are choices no parent should be forced by the government to make.

As a result of the painful discrimination created by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Scott ended the career he loved and his decade-long service to our country.

“At a time when our nation is exhausting all of its military personnel in an effort to keep Americans safe from terrorism, to lose a dedicated officer like Scott, simply because he was a loving concerned parent, is shameful”, declared Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director of Family Equality Council. “If the President is serious about creating jobs for all Americans, and if the First Lady is truly committed to supporting all military families, then the President must act swiftly to put the full weight of his Administration behind efforts to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” ensuring families can support and care for one another and removing the barriers that prevent LGBT Americans from working, serving their county, and protecting their families.”

The Palm Center on reactions:

Obama’s Remarks On Gay Ban Fall Short Of 2010 Challenges: President Has Authority to Halt Gay Discharges

Experts said tonight that President Obama’s endorsement of congressional repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” during his State of the Union address falls short of the challenges ahead for repeal in 2010. “Including repeal in the State of the Union Address makes clear that the President considers this issue important,” said Christopher Neff, Deputy Executive Director of the Palm Center and previously the first federal lobbyist for “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal. “Yet the path to repeal will require both a command decision by the President and a clear timeline which follows. Leadership from the Pentagon will likely be mixed during upcoming hearings, and votes will be close in the House and Senate. It’s the President who is the game-changer on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in 2010.”

As explained in a Palm Center report that will soon be released in published form, current law gives certain discretionary authorities to the President and the Defense Secretary regarding how they implement the policy, which is similar, but not identical to, the law. Nathaniel Frank, Senior Research Fellow at Palm and author of “Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America,” explained that, “President Obama has the opportunity to modify the gay ban’s application through executive action. Many experts have suggested the President can direct the Secretary of Defense to adjust the investigative standards for ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ that require credible information from a reliable source.” In its report, the Palm Center outlines an analysis suggesting that a zone of privacy is appropriate for off-base, off-post, off-duty conduct. “Such a zone could be created by President Obama if he were willing to do so.”

Executive Director Michael Mitchell of National Stonewall Democrats:

“The President’s promise to work to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is encouraging, and his inclusion of the issue in his first State of the Union draws much needed attention to this egregious and discriminatory policy. But it’s time for concrete action. We applaud the President’s promise and now call on Congress to do what three-quarters of Americans support: an end to discrimination in the military.”

Mitchell also commented on the President’s exclusion of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act: “We are disappointed that another proposed law with broad support, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, was not mentioned by the President and call on Congress and this Administration to pass ENDA this year. The President said he cannot make change alone, and we agree. But we need his strong, focused leadership to shepherd these two critical bills to his desk.”

John Aravosis, who has been hard on the President, on the nuggets of good in the speech:

1. The SOTU matters. No, no one remembers it after a week, but it still is the most important speech of the year, and a lot of thought and politics goes into what is and isn’t included. A few days ago, Joe wrote that obviously DADT wouldn’t be in the SOTU, because we never imagined the President or his people would want to come with 100 miles of the repeal. Yet they did.

2. The President said “this year.” That’s a timeline, baby.

3. The President said he would work with Congress and the military. He didn’t call on Congress to act, putting the burden on them, which many of us feared he might. He took responsibility for working with Congress and the military. That’s good.

4. He said “repeal.” He didn’t say “change,” which he and his people have been saying a lot lately, especially in front of straight audiences. He said “repeal.” That’s good.

5. He added the “it’s the right thing to do” remark. That wasn’t in his prepared statements. It’s subtle, but it means he knows this specific promise matters.

Senator John McCrackity McCain

“In his State of the Union address, President Obama asked Congress to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.  I am immensely proud of, and thankful for, every American who wears the uniform of our country, especially at a time of war, and I believe it would be a mistake to repeal the policy.

“This successful policy has been in effect for over fifteen years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels.  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.”

Chris Geidner for Metro Weekly:

The hope of LGBT Americans for promise of specific action, to the extent it came in Obama’s address to the nation, appeared — in the prepared remarks — in a single sentence addressing the future of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Obama said: ”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.” During the extended applause that followed the line, however, he added a brief aside not appearing in the text: “It’s the right thing to do.”

Before getting there, the President invoked ”our incredible diversity” and ”the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we are all created equal.” He noted the expanded work of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, saying it ”is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination.” Raising the one legislative victory secured for LGBT equality in his first year in office, Obama said, ”We finally strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate.”

Despite the focus on jobs and the economy, there was no mention of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act – a bill that would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity – in the address.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding