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Obama to end military gay policy

Obama: "I will end 'don't ask, don't tell'"

US President Barack Obama has said he will end the ban on gay people serving openly in the military.

He said he would repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that allows gay people to serve in the military if they do not reveal their sexual orientation.

Mr Obama was speaking to America's largest gay group - the Human Rights Campaign - in Washington.

He had been criticised by some in the gay community for the lack of action on gay marriage and the military issue.

A big gay rights protest march is planned in Washington for Sunday.

Disquiet

Mr Obama was addressing thousands of gay and lesbian people at a fundraising dinner in the US capital.

Do not doubt the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach
Barack Obama

He said the US had made progress on gay rights and would make more.

On the military issue he said the US could not afford to lose those people who had much needed skills for fighting.

"We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve the country," Mr Obama said.

"We should be celebrating their willingness to step forward and show such courage."

Mr Obama did not give a timetable for repeal of the policy, passed by Congress in 1993, under which thousands of service members have been discharged.

The US president has repeatedly pledged to tackle issues important to the gay community.

But he has faced criticism for what many in the gay community see as lack of action on his promises.

Mr Obama asked the audience to trust his administration.

"I appreciate that many of you don't believe progress has come fast enough. Do not doubt the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach," he said.

One issue causing disquiet among the US gay community is the issue of gay marriage, the BBC's Rajesh Mirchandani in Los Angeles says.

Mr Obama has been criticised for not delivering on his promise to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which limits how local and federal bodies can recognise gay partnerships and determine benefits.

In his speech, Mr Obama did call on Congress to repeal the act and he also called for a law that would extend benefits to domestic partners.

In many places in America, gay people enjoy a high profile, economic and political clout, our correspondent says.



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