Obama joins gay rights groups to discuss 'don't ask, don't tell'

Gays have scored victories for same-sex marriage and adoption, but the future of "don't ask, don't tell" is uncertain. And recent teen suicides raise questions about societal acceptance.
By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 26, 2010; 8:59 PM

President Obama met briefly on Tuesday with gay rights groups pushing to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, according to people familiar with the meeting.

The groups were at the White House to discuss a repeal of the law with senior administration officials. The president stopped by "to directly convey to the participants his personal commitment on this issue," a senior official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Obama opposes the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, and he wants Congress to repeal it.

Those invited to the White House included representatives of the Center for American Progress, the Human Rights Campaign, Servicemembers United, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the University of California at Santa Barbara's Palm Center, the Stonewall Democrats and the Log Cabin Republicans, participants said.

They met with White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and other officials. Participants declined to discuss details of the exchange.

The Log Cabin Republicans are suing in federal court to challenge "don't ask, don't tell." The Center for American Progress and the Palm Center have studied the impact of gays in the military, and both support repealing the law. The other groups are pushing for repeal or represent service members who have been affected by the policy.

The meeting took place as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is considering whether the Pentagon can continue to enforce "don't ask, don't tell" while the government appeals a federal judge's ruling that the policy is unconstitutional.

White House senior adviser David Axelrod defended the administration's decision to appeal the case during an online video chat Tuesday. "It is the custom of the U.S. government to appeal laws of Congress that were challenged in lower courts," he said during the chat, arranged by the White House. "It should be by no means read as an abandonment of a commitment, and we intend to keep it."

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday: "Our desire and our hope and the president's commitment is that he will work to see [a repeal] pass."

But it is unclear whether Congress will take up the issue this year, in a lame-duck session that will begin after next week's midterm elections.

Staff writer Anne E. Kornblut and online political producer Matt DeLong contributed to this report.

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