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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Obama Still Committed to Gay Rights

With the growing discontent from so many gay rights activists, President Obama met with hundreds of members of the LGBT community on Monday for a East Room reception marking the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York, considered the beginning of the modern gay rights movement.

The criticism stems from unfulfilled campaign promises, such as those that would repeal laws barring gays from serving openly in the military and proclaiming marriage to be a union between a man and a woman. Not to mention the more recent legal brief submitted by Obama's Justice Department that defended the 1996 federal marriage law which blocks recognition of gay marriages outside of the six states that perform them.

Obama addressed the group stating, "I know that many in this room don't believe that progress has come fast enough, and I understand that." It's not for me to tell you to be patient, any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African-Americans who were petitioning for equal rights a half century ago."

Recommitting to his election campaign pledge, Mr Obama stated, "I'll say it again. I believe 'don't ask, don't tell' doesn't contribute to our national security. In fact, I believe preventing patriotic Americans from serving their country weakens our national security." He also stated that he has asked Pentagon officials to begin planning for how to end "don't ask, don't tell," but 77 House members have already asked him to eliminate the policy faster. Likewise, there's been little movement on overturning DOMA, even though Obama says he wants it repealed.

"I've called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act to help end discrimination against same-sex couples in this country," Obama said. "Now, 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. And fulfilling this duty in upholding the law in no way lessens my commitment to reversing this law."

But that's not likely to happen right away. Obama and Congress are devoting most of their energy to passing a healthcare overhaul and a sweeping new energy policy. With such a busy agenda, White House and congressional leaders have been reluctant to overload the political machinery in Washington by pushing through more controversial legislation.

Obama is hoping LGBT supporters will be patient, but for how long?

“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. … We've been in office six months now. I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration,” he said.

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