President Obama has had a somewhat shaky relationship with gay rights supporters who backed him in 2008 — and much of it revolves around the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Obama’s pledge to end the military’s ban on gays during last week’s State of the Union speech won praise from gay rights supporters. It will be interesting to hear the reaction to Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plan for a year-long study on the issue; gay rights supporters have often accused Obama of slow-footing their issues.
As a presidential candidate, Obama pledged to end the military’s ban at a gay rights forum in 2007, saying:
I will task the Defense Department and the senior command structure in every branch of the armed forces with developing an action plan for the implementation of a full repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. … America is ready to get rid of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. All that is required is leadership.
In the months after his inauguration, President Obama’s actions — or lack of them — prompted rising criticism from gay rights supporters, particularly his silence on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
The criticism prompted Obama to give a major speech in October at a meeting of the Human Rights Campaign, the civil rights group that sponsored the 2007 forum and endorsed Obama’s candidacy.
“I appreciate that many of you don’t believe progress has come fast enough,” Obama said that night. “Do not doubt the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach.”
Some attendees questioned whether Obama would follow through.