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Obama's State of the Union address: Repealing 'Don't ask, don't tell' gets applause--from some

January 27, 2010 |  9:03 pm

Joints On more than one occasion tonight, some people listening to President Obama’s State of the Union address at the Capitol rose to their feet to applaud some pronouncement. One group in the House chamber stayed seated, noticeably so, during one remark.

The moment came when Obama reiterated his support for allowing gays to serve openly in the military and to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“This year — 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,” Obama said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

That’s when many people in the hall stood up -- except the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who remained seated and expressionless, not far from the president. They did not applaud.

During his presidential campaign, Obama promised to be a “fierce advocate” for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. But many gays have complained that Obama has not lived up to his promise. After the address, LGBT groups reacted approvingly, but with some skepticism.

“He vowed what he has vowed before,” said Rea Carey, the director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “We wish we had heard him speak of concrete steps tonight. The next time the president speaks about our community, we expect him to provide a concrete blueprint.”

Carey said that Obama, as commander in chief, has the authority now to stop military discharges on the basis of sexual orientation. He should do that immediately, she said. The next step would be for Congress to overturn the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. Key to that effort is a House bill sponsored by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) known as the Military Readiness Enhancement Act.

-- Kate Linthicum

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Photo: US Democratic Senator Max Baucus of Montana (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen (R) point into the crowd before US President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address to a joint session of the Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, on 27 January 2010. Credit: EPA/ALLISON SHELLEY