Barack Obama | Don't Ask, Don't Tell | Gay Rights | Human Rights Campaign | News

Obama Commits to Work for LGBT Equality, Offers No New Promises

Appearing before a packed and welcoming room at the Human Rights Campaign's annual dinner in Washington, President Obama delivered a speech strong on rhetoric that did not make any new promises or commitments. In his strongest language to date he promised the crowd, as he has in the past, that he would end the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, but did not offer any timeline for doing so.


Obamahrc Obama spoke about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and promised to defend any of his employees from attacks based on who they are, a likely reference to Safe Schools Chief Kevin Jennings, who has been under attack from anti-gay right-wing and religious groups. He also trumpeted recent House passage of a federal hate crimes bill and promised to sign it once it reaches his desk.

Obama also did not directly reference Question 1 in Maine or Referendum 71 in Washington state, two ballot measures that would remove rights from LGBT citizens on either coast, but offered broader promises to fight against the lies and divisiveness of foes of equality, suggesting that religion-based bigotry has no place in the national debate.

The President discussed his commitment to gay and lesbian families, using as an example his invitation to allow them to roll Easter Eggs at the White House.

The most amusing moment of Obama's speech came at its opening, when the President said, "It is a privilege to be here tonight to open for Lady Gaga." Finally, the President said that "friends should be able to be honest with one another" and he supports those who hold his feet and those of Congressional leaders to the fire over campaign promises.

What are your thoughts on the speech? 


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  1. a great and stirring stump speech, shakespearean...

    full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    Posted by: jack | Oct 10, 2009 9:15:50 PM

  2. Unfortunately this was pretty much the exact same speech he gave before the election. Nothing new. And the HRC crowd in their tuxedos went nuts... probably because they were all drunk on champagne. HRC is an embarrassment.

    Posted by: Robert | Oct 10, 2009 9:17:08 PM

  3. I concur. Nothing but MORE WORDS piled higher and deeper. NO ACTION...not even an concrete promises or timelines for action. Total BS. Ridiculous. And I'm furious that lots of gay people will probably be satisfied with the crumbs that Obama offers.

    My wallet has long been closed to the HRC. And it's also slammed shut for Obama and the Democrats. Screw them.

    Posted by: Edo | Oct 10, 2009 9:23:48 PM

  4. All flash and NO substance. Words and promises are easy, actions PROVE yourself, President Obama. You know you have the power to end discharges under DADT immediately. You know there are ACTIONS you can take that would ensure equality comes to your GLBT brethren and yet you don't. I have no doubt that you believe in our equality, but part of your job as President is to act decisively - thats why you have the powers that you do.

    (What I'd say to him)

    Posted by: Jim in MN | Oct 10, 2009 9:27:01 PM

  5. You can watch the speech on CSPAN:

    Posted by: Joel | Oct 10, 2009 9:28:02 PM

  6. Same shit, different speech. I'll believe everything when I see it happen.

    Posted by: Tony | Oct 10, 2009 9:28:03 PM

  7. The word "putz" comes to mind. The man does not even have the balls to address Maine and Washington. What the hell good is he?

    Posted by: John | Oct 10, 2009 9:28:14 PM

  8. Take a breath.
    Breathe into a brown bag if need be...

    If the Presidents speech tonight was not good enough for you -
    Then I'm here to collect your card.

    REALLY did you ever believe you’d hear a setting President – (not one 10 years AFTER he left office) say the kind of things our President said tonight on behalf of the LGBT citizens. He is standing up for us - WE WILL STAND with him.

    Posted by: Rich LaHaye | Oct 10, 2009 9:28:29 PM

  9. Charming and substance-free.

    If I'd been there I might have bought it, and come away encouraged.

    From a great distance it borders on insulting. He can't even be bothered to mention Question 1 or Referendum 7?

    When will Obama start giving US quotes WE can use in these populist battles rather than our enemies?

    Posted by: adamblast | Oct 10, 2009 9:29:26 PM

  10. This speech came off like he was the only candidate talking to a LGBT group during a primary campaign. He was able to "talk big" and yet offer nothing. It was a terrible disappointment.

    Posted by: Gregory | Oct 10, 2009 9:33:48 PM

  11. Mixner was right: The speech was a disaster. I watched it on C-SPAN, waiting for Obama to mention the upcoming votes in Maine, Washington State and Washington, DC. Nothing. NOTHING! No specifics about DADT, no hard talk about marriage or civil unions. Nothing new or solid at all. And this tepid speech comes the day after winning the Nobel Peace Prize?!?

    Unacceptable. Then factor in that "we should be happy with bread crumbs" announcement from HRC. WTF?

    And what's with the previous Towleroad posters attacking Mixner for his weight or his past work with the Clintons (whom he later distanced himself from)? This is a man who has walked the walk for LGBT causes, and we treat him like this? Seriously, the discourse on this site is becoming as enlightening as Queerty, which I had to stop reading because of all the immature vitriol.

    Anyone else plagued by a neverending sense of frustration and anger since the Nov. 4 election? Damned if I have figured out how to channel it into something productive--no, I don't think a march will yield results (besides, I've already been to a million of them). Instead, I donated money to the Maine marriage cause.

    I will be curious to see whether the Obama speech will be portrayed as the spineless insult it was.

    Posted by: Trog | Oct 10, 2009 9:35:18 PM

  12. Will everyone please shut up? He invited gay families to the Easter Egg Roll, didn't he?

    Posted by: Tom H. | Oct 10, 2009 9:35:58 PM

  13. @ruch lahaye...

    if you AREN'T a paid shill, you need to turn in YOUR card. there is no other excuse.

    (and it is SITTING president, not setting, unless you are talking about president of the hen house)

    Posted by: jack | Oct 10, 2009 9:39:18 PM

  14. I agree with Rich Lahaye. Sorry, but this was a great speech, and words DO matter. If he were planning to bail on us, he did not have to be there tonight, in DC the night before the march. I believe him, and I think I'll be proven right.

    I don't see how anyone gay can honestly say this speech was "substance-free." I guess we are becoming more and more trapped in a gay echo chamber online where we forget how crazy-important it is to have the leader of the free world saying a relationship between people of the same gender should be as admired as one between people of opposite genders.

    Even the derided Easter remark overlooks that his inviting gay families to that event really WAS a big deal. It made the righties flip their fuckin' gourds and the remark was not, after all, a cornerstone of this speech or anything.

    He strongly reiterated that DADT will go.

    For me, the only disappointment (considering I didn't expect him to issue a DADT stop-loss on the spot, though I disagree with him on that approach) was, as Andy pointed out, his failure to speak against Question One in Maine and other specific measures.

    Otherwise, this speech excited me. When he follows through on his promises, I'll be relieved. (And please, enough with the jealous or anti-materialist or whatever snarking about tuxedoes and champagne. Most people enjoy the finer things in life from time to time...are we supposed to do everything in jeans? I'm not a huge HRC fan because they endorsed Lieberman, but this class-warfar b.s. is embarrassing.)

    I hope the march goes as well as Obama's speech—I think both aspects are important and we're all on the same side.

    Posted by: Matthew Rettenmund | Oct 10, 2009 9:42:40 PM

  15. I can hear Martin Luther King talking about civil rights, just not today people. And, we want equality, but not for you, at least not right now. Pretty words, lots of pretty words and empty promises. Obama is a fraud.

    Posted by: cls | Oct 10, 2009 9:43:37 PM

  16. Rich: yes, we did think we'd hear that because he said the exact same crap last year.

    I suppose if I had just shelled out $500 and a tuxedo rental to attend the self congratulating HRC Dinner, I'd be standing up and cheering too.

    Change you shouldn't hold your breath for.

    Posted by: Jessej | Oct 10, 2009 9:43:59 PM

  17. @RICH LAHAYE, if we all should just be happy that a sitting president spoke in front of a gay organization, then your bar is EXTREMELY low.

    Posted by: Robert | Oct 10, 2009 9:45:01 PM

  18. Nothing but novocaine-laced words and pseudopoetry about gay rights and concerns. Nothing but opiated platitudes and more sweet-talk promises.

    President Fauxbama is a politician, first and foremost. All he is and was ever after is money. Money to fund his reelection by pandering to us, only to stab us in the back by constant "rationalized" delays and excuses as to why he can't take 10 minutes out of his busy day (when he saw fit to fly to Copenhagen instead) to sign a simple, four-paragraph stop loss order to prevent qualified gays and lesbians from being arbitrarily kicked out of the miltary, no matter what their qualifications. Why he can't use his political muscle to wrench the nervous congressional nellies into line to summon the guts to rid us of DOMA. Why he can't spend an hour with the congressional elite to insist that ENDA gets enacted. We STILL don't have a Hate Crimes protection bill, and that is the case in no small matter because Fauxbama has failed to exert even the feeblest pressure to get it passed.

    Not a single penny to DNC or HRC until I see some concrete progress!

    Posted by: Paul in Honolulu | Oct 10, 2009 9:45:17 PM

  19. I do not see why the gay community is so upset at what Obama has apparently not done for them. The man has been in office for nine months!

    I am all for gay rights and equality for all citizens across the board but lets be realistic.


    We want him to get re-elected.

    Obama will not do anything of "significance" for the gay community until he gets elected for a second term.

    If he does it now, the right will come out in full force throwing money at any right wing fundamentalist that opposes the social issues that Obama has supported and made into law (gay rights/marriage) within his first years and the Democratic party will more than likely lose the majority and the presidency by 2012. It will become a 2004 election all over again.


    I believe that he will accomplish universal efforts like hate crime and equal employment reform for the gay community in his first term but as for the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and same-sex marriage, those will not be topics he will touch until he has won his second term.

    If he waits until then, reverses "don't ask, don't tell" and makes marriage a right for all citizens then it will give society as a whole four plus years to get accustomed to these new measures/laws and by the time he leaves office it will be a non-issue.


    Posted by: Patrick | Oct 10, 2009 9:46:05 PM

  20. Wow, I heard a brilliant speech. I heard a call to end DOMA. I heard a promise to end DADT.

    You people are as bad the Religious Right in your impossible expectations. Of course he is going to fail if you want everything today.

    Barack Obama, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES clearly stated his position. There was no equivocation.

    He said there will be 5 law changes. 1. Hate Crimes. 2. ENDA. 3. DADT 4. Repeal DOMA. and 5. Pass Domestic Partner law.

    Posted by: Chris In AK | Oct 10, 2009 9:48:25 PM

  21. This is absurd. We have a president addressing HRC on the eve of a massive march, giving strong promises, and A LOT OF ALREADY DONE ACTION, and everyone here is pissy because he didn't mention the votes in Maine and Wash. Hey, newsflash, he's done a lot. He's committed to a lot. It's happening, don't be happy with breadcrumbs, but don't be childish either.

    Posted by: Cameron | Oct 10, 2009 9:48:34 PM

  22. Who ever heard a stronger speech on our behalf from any politician? Even the sainted Harvey Milk couldn't produce instant results.

    President Obama is by far the best advocate we've ever had. Did anyone really expect all our dreams come true in 8 months? The political process is still the same obstacle course it has always been. On top of that, the reality is that most of America is not on our side.

    Snarky attacks & temper tantrums will not advance the cause. Cripple Obama because he can't deliver miracles overnight & see how far we get with Huckabee, Palin, Romney, or whoever the new President turns out to be. I think it's worth trusting the instincts of the current administration in the pace they pursue their stated goals.

    I fully support the National Equality March & all efforts to keep our goals on the front burner, but let's not get counter-productive. We've come too far to suffer huge setbacks due to backlash that could easily happen with so many enemies out there.

    Posted by: JONNY NYNY2FLFL | Oct 10, 2009 9:50:00 PM

  23. Don't call us children, KAPO!!!!!

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 10, 2009 9:51:33 PM

  24. I'd grade it an A-

    He should have used a stronger word than "relationships".

    Posted by: Observer1000 | Oct 10, 2009 9:52:24 PM

  25. Yap yap yap, Obama is all words, no action. What a joke! Can you imagine telling black people to keep on hoping and sit at the back of the bus? This is RIDICULOUS. I almost wish we had elected an evil Republican; at least they hate you to your face.

    Posted by: Terry | Oct 10, 2009 9:52:58 PM

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