San Francisco Chronicle

Obama, activists lose momentum over ‘don’t ask’
San Francisco Chronicle

Dan Choi, a gay National Guard platoon leader, will be discharged from the military under the Obama administration, which has quietly shelved the president’s campaign promise to repeal the 16-year-old « don’t ask, don’t tell » policy with the tacit acquiescence of Washington’s gay lobbying establishment.

Choi is among 38 West Point graduates who came out of the closet in March with an offer to help the military recognize the contributions of gay military members. Choi, a 2003 West Point graduate and fluent speaker of Arabic who served an extended combat deployment in Iraq, received his notice Wednesday.

Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a public policy think tank at UC Santa Barbara that has studied the issue of gays in the military and was the first to call attention to Choi’s case, said Obama could lift the ban now by executive order.

Gay rights groups, congressional sponsors and the White House insist that legislation to repeal the policy remains on the agenda. But for more than a month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen and most recently national security adviser and former Marine General James Jones have made clear that if repeal is on the agenda, it is pretty far down.

« So far they’ve taken Obama at his word, that he’s really going to repeal the law, » Belkin said. « I think that’s grossly naive. Obama has already sent many, many signals that he plans to shelve the issue for quite a long time. »