President Obama focused on the economy in his first State of the Union address tonight, but towards the end of his speech, he briefly touched on a law that prevents openly gays from serve in the military.
"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 to shouts and applause. "It's the right thing to do." He also praised the hate crimes law passed last year.
Obama made a similar pledge while speaking to the nation's largest gay advocacy group in October.
In 1993, President Clinton signed the the law, that says if openly gay military personnel will be discharged.
The Hillreported on Monday that the White House asked Sen. Carl Levin to postpone announcing a hearing that would explore repealing the law. The hearing had been expected at the end of January, and now the target date is expected to be February 11, Roxana Tiron reports.
Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimates in a recent report that 66,000 gay, lesbian, and bisexuals (about 2 percent) are serving in the military, according to the Washington Post.
Although President Obama's top domestic policy aides insist that the president is committed to an equality agenda for gays and lesbians, many liberal and gay rights groups are unhappy that the administration has failed to act on Obama's campaign pledge to end "don't ask, don't tell."
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that the issue has been "a point of discussion" among top White House aides.
Towards the end of the speech, Obama also mentioned his cooperation with Muslims. "We are working with Muslim communities around the world to promote science, education and innovation," he said.
Update: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell gave the Republican rebuttal, citing Scripture.
Top-down one-size fits all decision making should not replace the personal choices of free people in a free market, nor undermine the proper role of state and local governments in our system of federalism. As our Founders clearly stated, and we Governors understand, government closest to the people governs best.
And no government program can replace the actions of caring Americans freely choosing to help one another. The Scriptures say "To whom much is given, much will be required." As the most generous and prosperous nation on Earth, it is heartwarming to see Americans giving much time and money to the people of Haiti. Thank you for your ongoing compassion.