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Obama will ask for end to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 9 p.m. ET

President Obama will call for a repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy during Wednesday night's State of the Union address, White House officials said Wednesday afternoon.

"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 will say.

The policy forbids openly gay and lesbian people from serving in the military, and requires their discharge should they tell fellow servicemembers about their sexuality.

"Don't ask, don't tell" was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. It was intended as a compromise between the military's desire to continue banning gays from its ranks and Clinton's campaign promise to allow gays serving in the military to be open about their sexual preference. The law forbade the latter but it also blocked military commanders from asking about a subordinate's sexuality.

Gay rights groups have fought ever since to repeal the policy, and Clinton has since said that he now supports lifting the restrictions. Obama vowed during his own campaign to end "don't ask, don't tell," a position he reiterated last October in a speech to the Human Rights campaign, a prominent gay rights group.

The White House has faced pressure since early last year from liberal and gay rights groups over the policy. A growing chorus of people across the political spectrum and several retired military leaders have also called for a repeal.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) hinted to reporters earlier this week that Obama might mention a repeal. He said the White House had asked him to delay hearings scheduled for February on the matter. CNN first reported Wednesday afternoon on the president's intention.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | January 27, 2010; 7:02 PM ET
Categories:  Administration, Workplace Issues  
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