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Obama aide: Ending 'don't ask, don't tell' must wait

  • Story Highlights
  • In YouTube video, spokesman says Obama will keep promise to overturn policy
  • "Don't ask, don't tell" policy bars openly gay people from serving in the U.S. military
  • Overturning rule would require Congress to pass legislation
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In an overlooked YouTube video posted on Friday, a spokesman for Barack Obama said the president-elect is committed to ending the policy that bars openly gay men and women from serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Barack Obama is committed to overturning "don't ask, don't tell," his spokesman, Robert Gibbs, says.

Barack Obama is committed to overturning "don't ask, don't tell," his spokesman, Robert Gibbs, says.

In a response to a question on the Web site Change.gov asking whether Obama would get rid of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said: "You don't hear politicians give a one-word answer much. But it's 'Yes.'"

Gibbs on Wednesday expanded on his answer, saying, "There are many challenges facing our nation now and the president-elect is focused first and foremost on jump-starting this economy.

"So not everything will get done in the beginning but he's committed to following through" with ending the policy against being openly gay in the military. Video Watch Gibbs' answer on "don't ask, don't tell" »

The policy bans military recruiters or authorities from asking someone about his or her sexual preference, but also prohibits a service member from revealing if he or she is gay.

During the presidential campaign, Obama said he would work to end the policy, but because it is dictated by federal law, he can not end it unilaterally.

Congress must pass legislation overturning the policy, which was put into place at the beginning of the Clinton administration. Former President Bill Clinton tried to overturn the "don't ask, don't tell" policy when he took office in 1993, but he was strenuously opposed by the military leadership.

In the last Congress, a bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Martin Meehan, D-Massachusetts, that would have implemented "a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."

The bill had 149 co-sponsors, but it never came up for a full vote in the House. It has yet to be re-introduced in the new Congress, which began last week.

"The key here is to get bills that pass the House and the Senate, that we can get to President-elect Obama to sign, and I think that we can do that, certainly, the first year of the administration," one of the co-sponsors, Democratic Rep. Ellen Tauscher of California, told CNN in November.

Public opinion appears to be shifting on the matter. A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted December 19-21 found that 81 percent of respondents believe openly gay people should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, while 17 percent said they shouldn't. The poll's margin of error was plus-or-minus 3 percentage points. iReport.com: 'Gays in the military? No thanks'

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The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff at the time, retired Gen. Colin Powell, also believes it is time to reevaluate the policy -- although he has not said he favors its reversal.

"It's been 15 years and attitudes have changed," Powell told CNN in December. "And, so, I think it is time for the Congress, since it is their law, to have a full review of it. And I'm quite sure that's what President-elect Obama will want to do."

CNN's John Roberts and Scott J. Anderson contributed to this report.

All About U.S. Armed ForcesEllen Tauscher

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