Obama joins gay rights groups to discuss 'don't ask, don't tell'
Updated and Corrected
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 White House meeting.
The groups were at the White House to discuss a legislative repeal of the law with senior Obama administration officials. The president stopped by the meeting "to directly convey to the participants his personal commitment on this issue," a senior official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
President Obama is opposed to the ban on openly gay men and lesbians serving in the military, and he wants Congress to repeal the law through legislation.
Those invited to the White House were representatives of the Center for American Progress, the Human Rights Campaign, Servicemembers United, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the University of California Santa Barbara's Palm Center, Third Way, Stonewall Democrats and the Log Cabin Republicans, according to meeting participants.
They met with White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and other officials. Participants would not discuss details of the exchange.
The Log Cabin Republicans are the plaintiff in a federal court case challenging "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 servicemembers impacted by the policy.
The meeting took place as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit considers whether the Pentagon can continue to enforce "don't ask, don't tell" or must stop doing so 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," Axelrod 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."
"Our desire and our hope and the president's commitment is that he will work to see [a repeal] pass," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.
But it's still unclear whether Congress will take up the issue this year, in a lame-duck session after next week's elections.
The repeal is contained in the annual defense authorization bill, currently before the Senate, and Democratic efforts to beat back a threatened Republican filibuster could prove difficult if the GOP wins races in Delaware, Illinois or West Virginia, states currently represented by Democrats and where laws require new senators to take office immediately. Some moderate Republicans have signaled support for repealing the ban but could be swayed by GOP party leaders.
"Certainly, the only way we can move to the bill is to change some of those minds," Gibbs said.
Washington Post staff writer Anne E. Kornblut and online political producer Matt DeLong contributed to this report.
This item was corrected Oct. 27 to include Third Way as a participant in the White House meeting.
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