Despite the pending repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ gay military families have been barred from a Michelle Obama event at the White House.

Tuesday’s launch of the first lady’s “Joining Forces” initiative, which focuses on the unique challenges faced by military families, did not include any openly gay military couples or families.

This highlighted the fact that although the ban on gay and lesbian personnel in the US military is in the process of being repealed, the law remains in force.

In a statement to The Advocate, Michelle Obama’s spokesperson Kristina Schake, explained that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ “still remains the law”, adding that “the first lady… look[s] forward to working with the families of gay and lesbian service members after [the] repeal goes into effect”.

Gay military groups had differing reactions to the exclusion of gay military staff from the White House event, with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network taking a conciliatory tone. It said that this was “unfortunate” but that it had no doubt that “Mrs. Obama and the President value the unselfish contributions and sacrifices our LGB military families are making today”.

Servicemembers United, however, was less forgiving: “The First Lady’s office has used the continued enforcement of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ as an excuse to exclude us…,” said the organisation’s Executive Director, Alexander Nicholson.

“Many straight organisational representatives have been invited to this event, including some with few or no military families in their constituencies. Yet our thousands of gay military families are shut out from being represented today because of nothing but lingering political homophobia. Gay and lesbian military families should not have to fight this hard just to stand in the back of the room in 2011.”

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