By Cliff Dunn
WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama told LGBT supporters last week that they have a friend in him. During the annual White House “LGBT Pride Month” reception on Friday, the chief executive promised to continue to serve as an advocate for gay rights. “Americans may be still evolving when it comes to marriage equality, but as I’ve indicated, personally Michelle and I have made up our minds,” Obama told the gathering of around 500 guests.
“As long as I have the privilege of being your president, I promise you, you won’t just have a friend in the White House, you will have a fellow advocate,” Obama added. The president announced last month that his own evolving views on LGBT rights had led him to conclude that same sex couples should have the right to marry, after years of putting off the announcement, angering many gay advocates.
All those present on Friday night appeared to be fully supportive of the Obama’s handling of other important to gay rights issues, including the repeal of the Pentagon’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy, and his Justice Department’s refusal to defend in court what the president believes to be an unconstitutional law, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
“Three years ago,” Obama added, “I also promised you this: I said that even if it took more time than we would like, we would see progress, we would see success—we would see real and lasting change. And together, that’s what we’re witnessing.”
The president acknowledged frustrations within the gay community at the perceived pace of progress and applauded LGBT advocates for demanding forcefully for change. “I’ve said before that I would never counsel patience; that it wasn’t right to tell you to be patient any more than it was right for others to tell women to be patient a century ago, or African Americans to be patient a half century ago,” he said. “After decades of inaction and indifference, you have every reason and right to push, loudly and forcefully, for equality.”
The chief executive acknowledged the struggle that remains. “We still have a long way to go, but we will get there. We’ll get there because of all of you. We’ll get there because of all of the ordinary Americans, who every day show extraordinary courage. We’ll get there because of every man and woman and activist and ally who is moving us forward by the force of their moral arguments, but more importantly, by the force of their example.”
Although the president’s remarks were well-received by activists, there remain questions unanswered about his current “whereabouts” on the LGBT “evolutionary scale. “As the president hosts LGBT advocates at the White House today to celebrate LGBT Pride Month, we call on President Obama to issue the executive order that we have been calling for since the beginning of the year—an Executive Order to bar discrimination by federal contractors based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Robin McGehee, the executive director of GetEQUAL.