Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gay Issues Get Day in White House


White House press secretary Robert Gibbs took three separate questions about LGBT issues during Tuesday's press briefing -- one on civil unions and two about the military's ban on allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the Armed Forces.

Jake Tapper from ABC:

Q Okay. And the second question on a completely different topic -- the President opposes same-sex marriage, but he supports giving same-sex couples the same rights as married people.

GIBBS: And benefits.

Q Same rights and benefits. What's your response to critics of his policy who say this is exactly separate but equal?

GIBBS: Well, I would point you to the any number of times that he was asked this during the campaign and addressed it.

Q I don't think he was ever asked is this separate but equal.

GIBBS: No. In fact, it was asked on multiple occasions, and I can pull you something on that. It's the President's belief -- he strongly supports civil unions, and supports ensuring that they have access to the rights and benefits, such as hospital visitation and things like that, that are enjoyed by others.

Jill Dougherty from CNN:

Q And a question on another subject. Even some of the President's friends are now saying that he is hedging on his promises on "don't ask, don't tell." He said he would overturn it, and now -- and you're saying, you have said, the President will keep his promise. But we heard from General Jones saying that "I don't know" when he was asked when it would be overturned. And some people feel that it's really on the back burner.

And also, cases of people -- there's a group now of people who were in the military who are gay who have come out, who are -- we're doing a profile on one who's a linguist, Arabic linguist, who's been kicked out because -- precisely of that. 

GIBBS: I think that case, in fact, shows why the President, why former members of the Joint Chiefs, and why the administration believe that the policy isn't working for our national interests.

Now, in terms of keeping his promise, I would note that many of the questions that have been asked here require more than the snapping of one's fingers. To get fundamental reform in this instance requires a legislative vehicle. The President made a promise to change this policy; he will work with the Joints Chiefs of Staff, the administration and with Congress to ensure that we have a policy that works for our national interests.

Bill Press of The Bill Press Show

Q Robert, back to "don't ask, don't tell," you indicated that the President wants to change the policy, but that some legislative vehicle would be necessary. He is the Commander-in-Chief. I mean, if the President and the Secretary of Defense can bring about a new leadership in Afghanistan, replace the commanding general there, couldn't the President and the Secretary of Defense delay any more people getting fired under "don't ask, don't tell"?

GIBBS: Well, there have been discussions about the best way to move forward, and the only sustainable way to do that is through -- sustainable and durable way -- is through legislation, which the President has promised and has continued to work for.

Q Is he willing to let other men and women in uniform, then, be dishonorably discharged simply because they're gay and lesbian while he's waiting for legislation?

GIBBS: Well, Bill, as I said a few minutes ago, I think the President believes now, as he believed -- has believed for quite some time, that the process does not serve our national interest. You've seen many speak out in opposition to it, and the President is working with the Joint Chiefs and members of Capitol Hill to come to a durable legislative solution.

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