The President received a warm response at Monday night’s LGBT White House cocktail party, where, with wife Michelle at his side, he gave a 20-minute speech paying tribute to the LGBT movement. To numerous bursts of applause, he guaranteed that concrete steps toward gay equality will be taken during his days in office, the Advocate.com reports.
“I want you to know that I expect and hope to be judged not by words, not by promises I've made, but by the promises that my administration keeps,” Obama said to the applause of about 250 attendees midway through his speech.
The President acknowledged frustration felt by many LGBT activists who believe his administration has not moved quickly enough to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.
“We've been in office six months now,” he said, “and I suspect that by the time this administration's over, you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration.”
He urged Congress to repeal the “so-called” Defense of Marriage Act, but stopped short of repudiating the Justice Department’s brief supporting DOMA, which drew outrage from homosexual organizations and bloggers earlier this month.
“I want to add, we have a duty to uphold existing law, but I believe we must do so in a way that does not exacerbate old divides,” he said, “and fulfilling this duty and upholding the law in no way lessens my commitment to reversing this law.”
Obama also called for the passage of Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and a fully inclusive Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill.
He addressed the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy directly, saying it undermines the effectiveness of the nation’s military. “In fact, I believe preventing patriotic Americans from serving their country weakens our national security,” he said to cheers. “Now, my administration is already working with the Pentagon and members of the House and the Senate on how we'll go about ending this policy, which will require an act of Congress.”
Obama admitted that each passing day brings “deep disappointment” to those who continue to be discharged. But he seems to have dismissed the idea of issuing an executive order to suspend the policy. “As commander in chief, in a time of war, I do have a responsibility to see that this change is administered in a practical way and a way that takes over the long term” he said, adding that he has asked the secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs chairman to develop a plan for implementing repeal.
Obama talked about the birth of the modern LGBT movement outside the Stonewall Inn in 1969 before concluding. “The truth is when these folks protested at Stonewall 40 years ago no one could have imagined that you, or, for that matter, I, would be standing here today,” he said. “So we are all witnesses to monumental changes in this country. That should give us hope, but we cannot rest. We must continue to do our part to make progress -- step by step, law by law, mind by changing mind. And I want you to know that in this task I will not only be your friend, I will continue to be an ally and a champion and a president who fights with you and for you.”
For the full text of his speech go to the Advocate.com
The people attending were generally moved and came away feeling they should give the President more time, while those who boycotted the affair mostly remained critical. I, for one, have said the man’s heart is in the right place and I will continue to support him in his efforts to bring our people full civil rights. Thank God for Obama!
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