FAIRFAX, Va. — President Obama presented an LGBT-inclusive vision for the country Friday during a campaign rally in a battleground state that could help determine the outcome of the election.
In an event at George Mason University that focused mostly on his commitment to women’s issues, Obama ticked off a list of accomplishments over his first term that included repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“We repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ to make sure that nobody who wants to serve our country gets kicked out because of who they love,” Obama said, generating applause from the audience.
Obama made additional references to the gay community in the speech. The president twice mentioned “gays” in the concluding portion of his speech warning his audience that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would reverse gains already made.
“In 18 days, you can let them turn back the clock 50 years for immigrants, and gays, and women, or we can stand up and say we are a country in which everybody has a place,” Obama said. “A country where no matter where you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from — black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, young, old, gay, straight, abled, disabled — we have a place for everybody.”
The inclusion of gays in Obama’s remarks at the rally stand in contrast to a campaign season that has been virtually devoid of discussion of same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues. The speech was more akin to the Democratic National Convention, where speakers emphasized LGBT-inclusiveness to pump up the crowd.
Among the estimated 9,000 people in attendance at the rally were members of the LGBT community who said they were delighted Obama made explicit references to them.
Broderick Greer, 22, a gay graduate student at the Virginia Theological Seminary, said Obama’s reference to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal was exciting.
“Sometimes I forgot about the strides that we’ve made with LGBT rights in the last few years since he’s been president,” Greer said. “When I heard repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ I screamed so loud that I hurt the lady’s ears in front of me. I think she was kind of upset.”
Greer said he’s already volunteered to work on behalf of the Obama campaign on the Saturday before Election Day knocking on doors in Alexandria, Va., to talk to potential supporters about the president.
Daniel Torin Roberts, 22, a gay recent graduate of George Mason University, also said he thought Obama’s inclusion of gays in his rally speech was important.
“You want to feel like you have a seat at the table, like he’s still thinking about you and everything he’s doing and it’s still a concern,” Roberts said. “He carries what we want with him, he knows what we want and he’s still fighting for us.”
But the most memorable part of the speech was Obama coining a new term to describe Romney’s pivot away from the conservative policies he articulated during the Republican primary: “Romnesia.”
“Now that we’re 18 days out from the election, Mr. ‘Severely Conservative’ wants you to think he was severely kidding about everything he said over the last year,” Obama said. “I mean, he’s changing up so much and backtracking and sidestepping we’ve got to name this condition that he’s going through. I think it’s called ‘Romnesia.’”