Obama woos frustrated gay activists at White House party

June 30, 2009

If Barack Obama and the gay community have strained relations, an elegant reception in the White House East Room to celebrate LGBT Pride Month was a good way to start mending fences — at least for now.Pride Reception

“Welcome to your White House,” Obama told an enthusiastic crowd of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people on Monday before launching into a summary of his administration’s accomplishments on their causes.

Notable exception: Obama’s pledge to repeal the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has not been met.

Gay activists have lamented the slow speed at which Obama, who had wide support from the community for his presidential campaign, and his administration have moved to address the military policy and other issues.

That’s not news to Obama, who addressed the dissatisfaction in his remarks.

“I know that many in this room don’t believe that progress has come fast enough, and I understand that,” he said.
“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.”

But Obama said progress had been made and promised the group that once he left office, they would have reason to be happy with his accomplishments.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

The audience clapped loudly. Patience, at least for the time being, seemed to have won the day.

“President Obama’s remarks today were welcomed and appreciated,” Joe Solmonese, president of the LGBT group Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement, with a nod to the the upcoming anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a pivotal moment in U.S. gay history.

“On the eve of this weekend’s 40th anniversary of Stonewall, the president has yet again reiterated his support for most of the critical federal issues facing millions of LGBT Americans. We must continue the hard work of turning that support into the passage of actual laws.”

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Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama greets guests at reception for LGBT Pride Month; Obama delivers remarks as first lady Michelle Obama looks on)

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