Obama vows to end military gay policy

President Barack Obama reaffirmed his campaign pledge to end the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military in a speech, but offered no timetable or specifics for acting on that promise.

He acknowledged to a cheering crowd that some policy changes he promised on the campaign trail are not coming as quickly as they expected.

"I will end 'don't ask-don't tell'," Mr Obama said to a standing ovation from the crowd of about 3,000 at the annual dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay civil rights advocacy group.

The law was passed by Congress in 1993 and signed by President Bill Clinton, who also promised to repeal the ban on homosexuals in the military but was blunted by opposition in the military and Congress.

Mr Obama said he's working with Pentagon and congressional leaders on ending the policy.

"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 ... especially when we are fighting two wars."

Mr Obama said it was no secret "our progress may be taking longer than we like." He followed this by asking supporters to trust his administration's course.

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

Some advocates said they already have heard Mr Obama's promises - they just want to hear a timeline.

Mr Obama also called on Congress to repeal the Defence Of Marriage Act, which limits how state, local and federal bodies can recognise partnerships and determine benefits. He also called for a law to extend benefits to domestic partners.

He expressed strong support for the Human Rights Campaign agenda - ending discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people - but stopped short of laying out a detailed plan for how to get there.

"My expectation is that when you look back on these years you will look back and see a time when we put a stop against discrimination ... whether in the office or the battlefield," Mr Obama said.

Mr Obama's political energies are focused on managing two wars, the economic crisis and his attempt to reform the health care system.

His message was one of unity and support for a group that has funnelled large amounts of money into Democratic coffers.

"I'm here with a simple message: I'm here with you in that fight," Mr Obama said.

Mr Obama also addressed those who do not favour advancing gay rights. A recent Pew Research Centre poll asked about homosexual behaviour, and about half said it is morally wrong. "There's still laws to change and there's still hearts to open," Mr Obama said.

Since Mr Obama took office in January, some advocates have complained that Mr Obama has not followed through on promises on issues they hold dear and has not championed their causes from the White House, including ending the ban on gays serving openly in the military and pushing tough nondiscrimination policies.