In his address, President Obama said in the context of strengthening civil rights that he would "work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are."
The "don't ask, don't tell" policy, established as a compromise between President Bill Clinton and Congress, became law in 1993. Recruits were no longer asked if they were gay when they enlisted, and the military could not seek out gay service members in investigations. Under the policy, people in uniform faced discharge if they engaged in or attempted to engage in homosexual acts or said they were gay.
Two military specialists described their reactions to the president's promise to seek to repeal the law and the chances of his success.
Director of the Palm Center, a research institute of the University of California, Santa Barbara
"It's historic for the president of the United States to mention military discrimination against gays and lesbians in the State of the Union address. And so in a sense this was a very profound moment. What everyone's waiting to see, however, is whether this is followed by a concrete plan and actual legislative program to stop firing gays and lesbians. ... The problem with last night's pledge to work with Congress to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell' is that he doesn't have the votes in the Senate, and so it remains to be seen if talk will be followed by action."
Belkin discusses more here:
Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis (retired)
In 1993, Maginnis was part of the Pentagon study group that devised the don't ask, don't tell policy.
"Six appellate courts have upheld the law, the military is in the midst of two wars and a host of other issues, and I just don't see any compelling reason from a readiness point of view why you would want to do this. Politically, I can understand that he's acquiescing to a minority view in his own political party. But that's not a good position necessarily for a commander in chief that's trying to fight wars across the world to take. The risks appear to be far more significant than the benefits associated with a policy change like this."
Hear more of Maginnis' response: