WASHINGTON, DC — President Barack Obama, struggling to keep promises made during his presidential campaign, renewed his pledge to end the military’s ban on openly gay service members and once again called for repeal the Defense Of Marriage Act, as he appeared at a fundraising dinner for the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group on Saturday night.
“I’m here with a simple message: I’m here with you in that fight,” the president said, referring to the ongoing effort to bring full civil rights to gays and lesbians. “For even as we face extraordinary challenges as a nation, we cannot and we will not put aside issues of basic equality.”
“I will end ‘don’t ask-don’t tell,'” Obama said Saturday night to a standing ovation from the crowd of about 3,000 at the annual HRC dinner, on the eve of the National Equality March on Washington by gay and lesbian citizens and their supporters.
But many in his audience of gay activists were left wondering when he would make good on the promise.
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said he was encouraged to hear Obama’s pledge but added “an opportunity was missed tonight.” He said his group “was disappointed the president did not lay out a timeline and specifics for repeal.”
Obama also called on Congress to repeal the Defense Of Marriage Act, which limits how state, local and federal bodies can recognize partnerships and determine benefits. He also called for a law to extend benefits to domestic partners.
Obama expressed strong support for the HRC agenda of ending discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people but stopped short of laying out a detailed plan for how to get there.
Watch Obama’s speech here:
HRC president Joe Solmonese praised that “President Obama told LGBT Americans that his commitment to ending discrimination in the military, in the workplace and for loving couples and their families is ‘unwavering.’ He made it crystal clear that he is our strongest ally in this fight, that he understands and, in fact, encourages our activism and our voice even when we’re impatient with the pace of change.”
Solmonese called it “a historic night when we felt the full embrace and commitment of the president of the United States. It’s simply unprecedented.”