Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Protesters Interrupt Obama’s Speech, Force Him To Reiterate Support For Repeal

Gay rights activists committed to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) before the end of the year interrupted President Obama’s fundraiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) yesterday, forcing Obama to reiterate his support for ending the policy. Obama first pledge to repeal DADT in his State of the Union address, but repeal advocates have grown frustrated with Obama’s unwillingness to support including repeal legislation in this year’s defense authorization bill and reports that the administration may be urging some Members of Congress to delay a vote on DADT until next year.

Last night in Los Angeles that frustration translated into action as members of the group GetEQUAL shouted over Obama’s remarks and pushed him to address their concerns:

OBAMA: She’s passionate about fighting for jobs, jobs with good wages, jobs with good benefits. She’s passionate about fighting for California’s families. She is –

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell!”

OBAMA: We are going to do that. Hey, hold on a second, hold on a second. We are going to do that.

AUDIENCE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

OBAMA: Here we go. All right — guys, guys, all right. I agree, I agree, I agree. (Applause.) Now –


THE PRESIDENT: No, no, no, no, listen. What the young man was talking about was we need to — we need to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which I agree with and which we have begun to do. (Applause.) But let me say this: When you’ve got an ally like Barbara Boxer and you’ve got an ally like me who are standing for the same thing, then you don’t know exactly why you’ve got to holler, because we already hear you, all right? (Applause.) I mean, it would have made more sense to holler that at the people who oppose it. (Applause.) […]

AUDIENCE MEMBER: It’s time for equality for all Americans!

THE PRESIDENT: I’m sorry, do you want to come up here? (Applause.) You know, the — all right, because can I just say, once again, Barbara and I are supportive of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” so I don’t know why you’re hollering.

Now, the problems that we have here put a further strain on folks in this state, forcing painful choices about where to spend and where to save. And the challenges folks have been facing here —


AUDIENCE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

THE PRESIDENT: Barbara — I just — everybody, I just wanted to confirm — I just wanted to confirm — I just checked with Barbara, so if anybody else is thinking about starting a chant, Barbara didn’t even vote for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the first place, so you know she’s going to be in favor of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” (Applause.)

Watch it:

It was worth it to us,” Dan Fotou, one of the protesters, told the blog LGBT POV, and explained that the group is particularly angry about the policy review now being conducted by the Department of Defense. While Secretary Gates had emphasized that the review would study how to repeal the policy rather than whether it should be repealed, the Pentagon had sent a “letter to military families asking their opinion about repealing the policy.” “They weren’t asking the families about how to implement the repeal,” Fotou said angrily. “They were asking the families of servicemembers about what they think about the repeal. Why should our rights be going to a poll? The president can change all that by showing leadership and putting the repeal into the Appropriations bill.” “Fotou said Get EQUAL is pushing on DADT specifically because of Obama’s apparent desire to wait to see the Pentagon study on the repeal – which would take about a year.”

While the protest certainly showered new attention on the issue and brought the communities’ frustration with the President’s foot dragging to a national audience, the action is unlikely to expedite the process. After all, the President seems to think that calling for repeal is the same thing as strongly advocating for it. The protesters pressed Obama to specifically act on repeal, but he demurred, saying, “Barbara and I are supportive of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, so I don’t know why you’re hollering.”

As Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner observes, “I’m not sure Obama wants DADT repeal any more after tonight. Maybe he will do more, and maybe that’s enough to call this a success, but I can’t imagine that it made him more eager personally to support LGBT equality. I’m not sure about that, but I still think that’s the downside in taking on the President in this way.”