President Barack Obama dropped by a White House meeting Tuesday of pro-repeal advocates who were convened to discuss the prospects of moving “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal before the end of the year.
“The president stopped by to directly convey to the participants his personal commitment on this issue,” said a White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The official declined to give any further details on the duration of the president's stay or the content of the meeting, but an e-mail earlier in the day indicated participants would be focused soley on strategizing about passing legislation during the lame duck session.
“The meeting will concern the work that remains to be done to ensure congressional action on this issue this year,” a White House official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity prior to the gathering, said Tuesday morning.
White House aides also sought to restrict any discussion of the DADT-related cases currently wending through the courts, according to a leaked email sent to attendees.
“We are expecting the content of the conversation today to be off the record and to help us figure out how to move forward with the lame duck session,” wrote Brian Bond, deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement. “There can be no discussion of current court cases or legal strategy or Counsel’s Office will end the meeting.”
Though the email incensed many LGBT advocates who believed all options should be on the table at such a strategy session, White House officials explained that it would be legally improper to address the cases with some attendees who were also litigants in those cases.
"Some of the participants in the meeting are involved in active litigation against the government on the issue of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, so it wouldn't be appropriate to discuss that litigation,” read a White House statement.
Specifically attending were R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the
Log Cabin Republicans, the group that filed the case that's working its
way through the ninth circuit court of appeals, and Alex Nicholson,
executive director of Servicemembers United and a plaintiff in that
During Tuesday’s press conference, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated the administration’s preference for repealing the law legislatively but admitted that serious hurdles remain, including the 60 votes needed to defeat a filibuster of the National Defense Authorization Act, the legislation to which the repeal measure is attached.
“The only way we’re going to get something through the Senate is to change the vote count,” Gibbs said. “You’re going to have to get past a promised filibuster in moving to the bill.”
Asked whether the White House was doing any contingency planning for the “very real prospect” that the legislative avenue would fail, Gibbs noted recent steps taken by the Pentagon to limit the number of people who can approve discharges but ultimately failed to outline any alternatives to legislation.
“Our efforts in the short term will be focused on the durable repeal of a law that the president thinks is unjust — that’s where our focus will be,” he said.