[JURIST] Tens of thousands of gay rights activists participated in the National Equality March in Washington, DC on Sunday to demand equal rights, one day after US President Barack Obama pledged his support [transcript, video] to the gay and lesbian community. At a Human Rights Campaign [advocacy website] event on Saturday, Obama spoke directly to gay Americans, vowing to repeal the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy [10 USC § 654 text; HRC backgrounder], which subjects openly gay individuals to discharge from the military:
We are moving ahead on Don't Ask Don't Tell. We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve this country. We should be celebrating their willingness to show such courage and selflessness on behalf of their fellow citizens, especially when we're fighting two wars.
We cannot afford to cut from our ranks people with the critical skills we need to fight any more than we can afford — for our military's integrity — to force those willing to do so into careers encumbered and compromised by having to live a lie. So I'm working with the Pentagon, its leadership, and the members of the House and Senate on ending this policy. Legislation has been introduced in the House to make this happen. I will end Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That's my commitment to you.
Obama also mentioned his desire for Congress to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive], which bars recognition of same-sex marriage. HRC President Joe Solomonese said, "[t]his was a historic night when we felt the full embrace and commitment of the President of the United States. It's simply unprecedented."
Last month, legislators introduced [JURIST report] a bill to repeal the 1996 DOMA. In July, the US Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] announced [JURIST report] that it would hold hearings this fall to review the US military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. In June, the US Supreme Court [official website] denied certiorari [JURIST report] to review the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. In November 2008, more than 100 retired admirals and generals of the US military called for a repeal [JURIST report] of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. In June 2008, he US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld [JURIST report] "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The First Circuit's decision stands in stark contrast to a May 2008 ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held [JURIST report] that a soldier could not be dismissed on the basis of sexual orientation alone.