Full Video, Transcript: Obama Signs ‘DADT’ Repeal Act of 2010

Here's the full transcript:

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  (Laughter.) 

You know, I am just overwhelmed.  This is a very good day.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank all of you, especially the people on this stage, but each and every one of you who have been working so hard on this, members of my staff who worked so hard on this.  I couldn’t be prouder.

     Sixty-six years ago, in the dense, snow-covered forests of Western Europe, Allied Forces were beating back a massive assault in what would become known as the Battle of the Bulge.  And in the final days of fighting, a regiment in the 80th Division of Patton’s Third Army came under fire.  The men were traveling along a narrow trail.  They were exposed and they were vulnerable.  Hundreds of soldiers were cut down by the enemy. 

And during the firefight, a private named Lloyd Corwin tumbled 40 feet down the deep side of a ravine.  And dazed and trapped, he was as good as dead.  But one soldier, a friend, turned back.  And with shells landing around him, amid smoke and chaos and the screams of wounded men, this soldier, this friend, scaled down the icy slope, risking his own life to bring Private Corwin to safer ground. 

     For the rest of his years, Lloyd credited this soldier, this friend, named Andy Lee, with saving his life, knowing he would never have made it out alone.  It was a full four decades after the war, when the two friends reunited in their golden years, that Lloyd learned that the man who saved his life, his friend Andy, was gay.  He had no idea.  And he didn’t much care.  Lloyd knew what mattered.  He knew what had kept him alive; what made it possible for him to come home and start a family and live the rest of his life.  It was his friend. 

And Lloyd’s son is with us today.  And he knew that valor and sacrifice are no more limited by sexual orientation than they are by race or by gender or by religion or by creed; that what made it possible for him to survive the battlefields of Europe is the reason that we are here today.   (Applause.)  That's the reason we are here today.  (Applause.)

So this morning, I am proud to sign a law that will bring an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  (Applause.)  It is a law — this law I’m about to sign will strengthen our national security and uphold the ideals that our fighting men and women risk their lives to defend.

No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who were forced to leave the military -– regardless of their skills, no matter their bravery or their zeal, no matter their years of exemplary performance -– because they happen to be gay.  No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder, in order to serve the country that they love.  (Applause.)

As Admiral Mike Mullen has said, “Our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives.  None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well.”  (Applause.) 

That’s why I believe this is the right thing to do for our military.  That’s why I believe it is the right thing to do, period. 

Now, many fought long and hard to reach this day.  I want to thank the Democrats and Republicans who put conviction ahead of politics to get this done together.  (Applause.  I want to recognize Nancy Pelosi — (applause) — Steny Hoyer –  (applause) — and Harry Reid.  (Applause.)

Today we’re marking an historic milestone, but also the culmination of two of the most productive years in the history of Congress, in no small part because of their leadership.  And so we are very grateful to them.  (Applause.)

I want to thank Joe Lieberman — (applause) — and Susan Collins.  (Applause.)  And I think Carl Levin is still working — (laughter) — but I want to add Carl Levin.  (Applause.)  They held their shoulders to the wheel in the Senate.  I am so proud of Susan Davis, who’s on the stage.  (Applause.)  And a guy you might know — Barney Frank.  (Applause.)  They kept up the fight in the House.  And I’ve got to acknowledge Patrick Murphy, a veteran himself, who helped lead the way in Congress.  (Applause.) 

     I also want to commend our military leadership.  Ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a topic in my first meeting with Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen, and the Joint Chiefs.  (Applause.)  We talked about how to end this policy.  We talked about how success in both passing and implementing this change depended on working closely with the Pentagon.  And that’s what we did.

And two years later, I’m confident that history will remember well the courage and the vision of Secretary Gates — (applause) — of Admiral Mike Mullen, who spoke from the heart and said what he believed was right — (applause) — of General James Cartwright, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs; and Deputy Secretary William Lynn, who is here.  (Applause.)  Also, the authors of the Pentagon’s review, Jeh Johnson and General Carter Ham, who did outstanding and meticulous work –  (applause) — and all those who laid the groundwork for this transition. 

And finally, I want to express my gratitude to the men and women in this room who have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Services.  (Applause.)  I want to thank all the patriots who are here today, all of them who were forced to hang up their uniforms as a result of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — but who never stopped fighting for this country, and who rallied and who marched and fought for change.  I want to thank everyone here who stood with them in that fight. 

Because of these efforts, in the coming days we will begin the process laid out by this law.  Now, the old policy remains in effect until Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen and I certify the military’s readiness to implement the repeal.  And it’s especially important for service members to remember that.  But I have spoken to every one of the service chiefs and they are all committed to implementing this change swiftly and efficiently.  We are not going to be dragging our feet to get this done.  (Applause.) 

Now, with any change, there’s some apprehension.  That’s natural.  But as Commander-in-Chief, I am certain that we can effect this transition in a way that only strengthens our military readiness; that people will look back on this moment and wonder why it was ever a source of controversy in the first place.     

I have every confidence in the professionalism and patriotism of our service members.  Just as they have adapted and grown stronger with each of the other changes, I know they will do so again.  I know that Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen, as well as the vast majority of service members themselves, share this view.  And they share it based on their own experiences, including the experience of serving with dedicated, duty-bound service members who were also gay. 

     As one special operations warfighter said during the Pentagon’s review — this was one of my favorites — it echoes the experience of Lloyd Corwin decades earlier:  “We have a gay guy in the unit.  He’s big, he’s mean, he kills lots of bad guys.”  (Laughter.)  “No one cared that he was gay.”  (Laughter.) And I think that sums up perfectly the situation.  (Applause.)

Finally, I want to speak directly to the gay men and women currently serving in our military.  For a long time your service has demanded a particular kind of sacrifice.  You’ve been asked to carry the added burden of secrecy and isolation.  And all the while, you’ve put your lives on the line for the freedoms and privileges of citizenship that are not fully granted to you. 

You’re not the first to have carried this burden, for while today marks the end of a particular struggle that has lasted almost two decades, this is a moment more than two centuries in the making.

There will never be a full accounting of the heroism demonstrated by gay Americans in service to this country; their service has been obscured in history.  It’s been lost to prejudices that have waned in our own lifetimes.  But at every turn, every crossroads in our past, we know gay Americans fought just as hard, gave just as much to protect this nation and the ideals for which it stands.

There can be little doubt there were gay soldiers who fought for American independence, who consecrated the ground at Gettysburg, who manned the trenches along the Western Front, who stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima.  Their names are etched into the walls of our memorials.  Their headstones dot the grounds at Arlington.

And so, as the first generation to serve openly in our Armed Forces, you will stand for all those who came before you, and you will serve as role models to all who come after.  And I know that you will fulfill this responsibility with integrity and honor, just as you have every other mission with which you’ve been charged.

And you need to look no further than the servicemen and women in this room — distinguished officers like former Navy Commander Zoe Dunning.  (Applause.)  Marines like Eric Alva, one of the first Americans to be injured in Iraq.  (Applause.)  Leaders like Captain Jonathan Hopkins, who led a platoon into northern Iraq during the initial invasion, quelling an ethnic riot, earning a Bronze Star with valor.  (Applause.)  He was discharged, only to receive emails and letters from his soldiers saying they had known he was gay all along — (laughter) — and thought that he was the best commander they ever had.  (Applause.) 

There are a lot of stories like these — stories that only underscore the importance of enlisting the service of all who are willing to fight for this country.  That’s why I hope those soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who have been discharged under this discriminatory policy will seek to reenlist once the repeal is implemented.  (Applause.) 

That is why I say to all Americans, gay or straight, who want nothing more than to defend this country in uniform:  Your country needs you, your country wants you, and we will be honored to welcome you into the ranks of the finest military the world has ever known.  (Applause.) 

Some of you remembered I visited Afghanistan just a few weeks ago.  And while I was walking along the rope line — it was a big crowd, about 3,000 — a young woman in uniform was shaking my hand and other people were grabbing and taking pictures.  And she pulled me into a hug and she whispered in my ear, “Get ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ done.”  (Laughter and applause.)  And I said to her, “I promise you I will.”  (Applause.)   

For we are not a nation that says, “don’t ask, don’t tell.” We are a nation that says, “Out of many, we are one.”  (Applause.)  We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot.  We are a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal.  (Applause.)  Those are the ideals that generations have fought for.  Those are the ideals that we uphold today.  And now, it is my honor to sign this bill into law.  (Applause.)  

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you, Mr. President!

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We're here, Mr. President.  Enlist us now.  (Laughter.) 

(The bill is signed.)

THE PRESIDENT:  This is done.  (Applause.)  



  1. Wayne says

    “A nice signing ceremony. And yet LGBT groups such as the Courage Campaign and SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) have made clear that this is a repeal IN NAME ONLY and that even after the president signs the so-called repeal act gay soldiers CAN NOT SERVE OPENLY OR HONESTLY and those who do remain subject to prosecution under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell which REMAINS the law of the land.

    So President Obama hangs out his “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” banner, yet the mission is NOT accomplished and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed in name only. But it appears a large portion of the gay community just want to feel good about something and don’t really care to hear the truth of the matter. And all the while gay soldiers will continue to be forced to live a lie in order to serve.

    Yep, we should all be celebrating.

  2. Damen says

    Chill out. Give it a few months, and we’ll see where impletation is headed. We’ll put more pressure when its needed. Now, lets celebrate this major accomplishment.

  3. x man says

    you should know your law before you speak…this is the law of the land it is being repealed. Bottom line; call it discrimination of another form because they cant kick you out for being gay any longer. Go back to school and know your US Constitution.

  4. Bobby says

    HISTORY IS MADE!!! The wicked old law is dead. Our President made America a little more equal this morning. Congratulations to all the military who will benefit from this new legislation.

  5. basil says

    do you know what’s worse? the president is a muslim kenyan. the law he signed does not matter because he is not legally the president. Also, the world is ending in 2012 anyway, so who cares.

  6. says

    So well you should have been invited, Andy. your Blog has been first class in supporting our rights and been a vehicle for those of us with opinions and little else to express our views and our concerns.
    Enjoy your vacation over the holidays…and congratulations on everything you have done over the last year.

  7. says

    This is a major and historical victory for us, and for President Obama and all those who made it happen. That is how it will be remembered, no matter how anyone tries to spin it to the contrary. It is a time to celebrate and to fight onward towards full equality.

  8. Blueflash says

    Thank you, President Obama. I doubted you and your commitment to repeal DADT. My doubts are allayed. This victory will clearly stand, despite the efforts of those who hate us and would deny our dignity and humanity, and it marks the beginning of the end to the promulgation of bigotry against us by our government. The tide has finally turned in our struggle! Happy happy day! At long last!

  9. Rowan says

    “I do find it encouraging that the White House reached out to bloggers and activists to attend this historic moment.”

    To be fair Andy, if he can still try and work with the Republicans, he can work with all the bloggers/activists who have spent all their dying breath insulting him like he was the devil incarnate despite the fact he has done more towards LGBT issues in 2 years then Clinton ever did. And well Bush?

    So yeah, Obama has behaved like a reasonable adult.

  10. says

    It’s so easy for keyboard revolutionaries NOT IN THE MILITARY to say, “Wait a few months.” All through this, such people have thought of this as only a process, about nothing but politics and pieces of paper. As the expression goes, “it’s no skin off THEIR backs.”

    Because their cold, clueless hearts forget the hundreds that have been needlessly humiliated, kicked to the curb, discharged since January 20, 2009. They forget the tens of thousands and more who have lived in fear every day that they would be next…and STILL live in that fear today AFTER the signing of this piece of paper which does NOT, in fact, end the law nor authorize open service or ban discharges YET.

    Thank you, Mr. President, for signing this piece of paper. NOW sign another one: an executive order banning discharges NOW and permitting open service. Not months from now; not a year from now. There is no reason for one more gay man or lesbian one more second to have to fight and die for their country in the closet.

  11. Vince says

    X-Man, you should know your law before you speak! The military had been kicking gays out for decades before Clinton’s benighted DADT policy. You might want to look up Leonard Matlovich on Wikipedia. He almost single-handedly took on the military in court only to lose to the proposition that the military knows best.

    I remain, with Wayne, skeptical that we have reached the end of this very long road. The success will be in the speed and thoroughness of the implementation. Just the fact that Obama pointed out that the old policy is still in place (and that gay soldiers can still be discharged!) until he and the Pentagon have certified a new policy is enough to give me the willies. It suggests that the military is still being run by the Pentagon brass and not by the Commander in Chief. This President is still taking his marching orders from the generals (Afghanistan, anyone?) and that does not make me rest easy.

  12. Gianpiero says

    We don’t know what it’s like to be told “Wait a few more months”?? Whether or not we’ve been in the military, we know EXACTLY what it’s like to be told to wait months–and years and decades–to be protected from job discrimination, to marry the person we love, to be secure in our relationships with foreign partners. And on those issues, we are also still waiting. So go to hell with your indictment of everyone’s “cold, clueless hearts.” Yes, full implementation of DADT should happen sooner than later, but you apparently have no hope that anyone will be acting in good faith to make that happen.

    This is an enormously historic step.

  13. Reggie says

    It must be really difficult for the Obama haters, gay and straight, who see things being done. They just cannot bring themselves to give President Obama any credit, to the extent that they try to blame him for the entire run of DADT. It is always sad when personal prejudices trump the facts.

  14. Ross says

    Congrats everyone! An exciting victory and I’m glad everyone is happy. It will take a bit of time to end the policy in practice, but the law is repealed.

    Unfortunately there are people on this site who just cannot take a victory and don’t want to give Obama credit. Sad. He could sign the Marriage Equality Bill and people would complain, “But it doesn’t go into effect until TOMORROW. Get WITH IT, Obama. Why celebrate this weak ‘victory?'”

  15. Jersey says

    Lately (with the exception of the tax bill and I can forgive that) Obama has seemed like the guy I voted for in 2008. I wish he and the dems in congress had acted this way, getting things done, a year ago and we wouldn’t be having a republican takeover in January. I think the ceremony was beautiful and hearing he invited Dan Choi, Eric Alva and now hearing you say he invited bloggers goes a way to rebuilding my respect for him. It seems completely reasonable to take a minute to get this right and I hope it is fully implemented sooner than later. Maybe I’m a sucker but I have the impression it will be.

  16. says

    There is NO excuse but continuing to bow to homophobia for an unequivocal ban on discharges and protection for open protection to take MONTHS as Obama has predicted….just like there was NO excuse for his wasting the last two years….all the while continuing to kick hundreds of gays out of the military AND fighting judicial constitutional rulings tooth and nail…just to coddle Pentagon homophobes. Ask Santa for a Truman biography, Mr. President! Today we got a Signer-in-Chief…we still need a COMMANDER-in-Chief.

    Listen to the experts not the bigots, Mr. President:

    “If leaders set clear deadlines and monitor progress, training can be accomplished quickly… Whatever preparations are ultimately deemed necessary, the Pentagon ought to be able to pull them off faster than it did the implementation of DADT in 1994, which took approximately 40 days. In invoking their certification rights, the president, secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should keep in mind that the support plan is complete; the Pentagon is presumably at least three weeks into the pre-repeal phase; and leadership, professionalism and respect (the key implementation message as per the support plan) are not new competencies for the U.S. military.” – The Palm Center.

  17. DR says

    I’ll not take the wind out of the celebratory sails with a negative nelly comment, but will state that this is the FIRST step, and there is a way to go before discharges stop and full repeal happens.

    I am with Michael, I see no reason why we can’t get an order to at least halt discharges while implementation happens, and that implementation needs to happen before the end of 2011.

  18. Kevin says


    Stop acting like you are the only one who understands reality. People like you don’t get anything done because you demand everything all at once or else you have a hissy fit. You HAVE to play the game a little to get what you want in the long run. Most people with common sense understand that concept. It seems like you DON’T understand reality at all, which is typical of people who think they are the only ones who do. (just like crazy people.)

  19. says

    @ Kevin: “all at once”? Obama has been Commander-in-Chief with unequivocal legal power to end discharges in the name of national security FOR TWO YEARS. He had NO legal obligation to fight THREE different lawsuits against DADT, nor let his DOJ lie about the plaintiffs in the process. He’s being sued by the ACLU and SLDN for continuing the Bush policy of refusing to give those discharged the full pay they have coming to them. And try telling the legal and military and social change EXPERTS at the Palm Center and the Center for American Progress, et al., who say he should stop dragging his feet to ACTUALLY end the ban about “reality.”

    They [and I] present facts…YOU present excuses. Why is that we wonder?

  20. says

    Bobn, you’re NOT being petty.

    First: FRANK KAMENY! NO ONE has a longer history of working to help gay servicemembers and fighting to end the ban than he. LONG before all the groups existed, he was such people’s only help. And he was the mentor of the very first servicemember to purposely out himself to try to end the ban, Leonard Matlovich 35 years ago.

    Some other civilians led by pioneer Randy Wicker, held the first protest against the ban which was also THE first gay protest of any kind and FIVE YEARS before Stonewall. Details about it, and other early ban protests led by lesbian pioneer Del Martin and Mattachine founder Harry Hay, with photos at the link below.


    The various attorneys who fought for gay servicemembers deserve thanks, too, such as James Lobsenz who represented Perry Watkins starting nearly 30 years ago, getting him a ruling that the ban was unconstitutional AND ordered reinstated. Lobsenz also was Margaret Witt’s lead attorney. And David Addlestone, Susan Hewman, and Carrie Boggan who were Leonard’s attorney.

    Late gay Congressman Gerry Studds and his staff were a huge help to various gays caught in the ban’s web. And Cong. Patricia Schroeder introduced a bill to outlaw the then policy ban in 1992 even before Clinton got the Party’s nomination and before anyone had heard of DADT. Barbara Boxer led the fight in the Senate in 1993 to try to prevent the ban from being transformed into DADT.

    David Mixner, Tom Stoddard, Tonya Domi, Chai Feldblum, et al., led the fight outside Congress in 1993. Their eloquent and prescient press conference responses to DADT in July 1993 can be watched at the link below. Ally Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism said, “If these walls could weep, today they would.”


    Former Cong. Marty Meehan introduced the first post DADT repeal bill in 2005, and no amount of praise is too great for Cong. Patrick Murphy, betrayed by the Log Cabin Repugs who helped kick him out of office by endorsing his Repug opponent.

    And I believe we wouldn’t have come as far as we have in the last two years [with far yet to go] were it not for gay bloggers who kept the pressue on. In addition to Andy Towle, AMERICAblog Gay and PamsHouseBlend has been outstanding.

  21. says

    Today I stood in line in the freezing cold with a 7 yr old and his mom, hugged David Mixner (who I hadn’t seen since marching with him at the NEM), finally met Rob Smith, Autumn Sandeen and Anthony Wood, celebrated with my mentor Babs Siperstein, gave my brother from another mother Dan Choi a big ole bear hug, laughed at Mike Rogers being Belle of the Ball (I love that man!) and even had a nice moment with Uncle Joe from HRC AND shook the Presidents hand and said ‘THANK YOU SIR!”

    All of the people who have been fighting on the blogs and in the LGBT press were just plain having the best day ever and it was fun to see and be a part of. I took videos of EVERYONE from Barney Frank to Victor Ehrenbach. Even Senator Udall took time to tell me a story about his dad doing some segregation busting back in the day. Admiral Mullen stopped for a handshake and Sheila Jackson-Lee gave me a spirited speech about why repealing DADT was so important.

    This was one of the best days of my life and I am happy to say that. I’m happy I’m from the Battle Born State of Nevada and that my club, Stonewall Democrats of Southern Nevada played a big role in getting Dan his ring back by making sure that Harry Reid was reelected.

    Most of all, I’m happy that every one of the hundreds of people in that room was happy. And millions around the country felt the same way. At the airports on my way back to Vegas, all the TV’s were tuned to reports on the DADT ceremony and not one person said anything negative. Btw, we talked our way into the archives today and met some great people who handed us a box containing the complete survey and results on DADT Repeal. Guess what? It’s SUPER thorough and it’s a VERY small minority that had a negative view of repeal.

    It was a very good day.

  22. Sydney says

    It’s great that protections will be coming for military staff.

    Now what about the rest of us? ENDA!

    There is no federal law barring discrimination in housing and employment. What do you think is the likelihood of the GOP controlled House wanting to pass ENDA?

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