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On issue of gays in military, Pentagon will make recommendations to Congress

Some gay rights organizations have urged the president to issue an executive order that would immediately overturn "don't ask, don't tell." But White House officials said that Obama thinks the best way to end the policy is with legislation and that he will leave the timing up to Congress.

Gay rights groups were already mobilizing Thursday to make the subject a campaign issue before congressional elections in November. The Human Rights Campaign announced plans to start a more than $2 million national grass-roots and lobbying campaign targeting lawmakers whose votes would be needed to pass a repeal.

Also Thursday, Obama reiterated his support for legislation under consideration in the House and Senate that would extend full domestic benefits to the partners of gay federal employees.

During a presidential town hall meeting in Florida, a University of Tampa student asked Obama about his position on equal rights for same-sex couples, noting that he had expressed support for a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" during his State of the Union speech.

Obama said he hopes Congress will pass the legislation this year. "It's the right thing to do, and it makes sense for us to take a leadership role in ensuring that people are treated the same."

In June, Obama signed a memo that provides partial benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

Staff writers Greg Jaffe and Michael D. Shear contributed to this report.

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