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. I just had to see this again, because it's so, so true:

    The biggest impediment to gay rights are fairweather faggots and straight "allies" who don't see a problem with us riding in the back of the bus until the end of time, as long as they get theirs.

    Posted by: JACKNASTY | Oct 10, 2009 11:15:39 PM

  2. "the changes cannot happen overnight"

    ""No, it's only been DECADES. And it hasn't been overnight, it's been almost a year for Obama.""

    You don't know what he has or hasn't done. You take a job that has been ran by a Confederacy of Dunces for 8 years and try to make heads or tails in 10 months. It can be done. He has had his hands full with triage of bleeding wounds. If you think your right to suck your legal husbands dick is more important than a collapsed economy, 2 wars, health care, Home security than your crazy. First things first. Any sixth grade student body president knows that.

    Why are you more important than someone dying of cancer waiting on some sort of intervention of Health care.

    Obama is your only shot. Shut up and give him three years and vote for Sarah Palin and see what you get.

    Posted by: Clinton | Oct 10, 2009 11:31:29 PM

  3. I believe in him 100%. It is hard to be patience but if we continue pressing on him and I really see that we are in the right path...George Bush was a complete nightmare and we weren't on the map while Bush was President. Next week we will see the Hate Crime Bill finally pass!! I understand your frustration but I truly believe that he means well and he will get it done! We are almost there....don't give up! It's been too long and it is hard to be patience...we are on our way to be treated as equal. When I see younger generations I feel the urge to do wherever it takes to make sure that they have a better life than we did...and Obama is going to take us there!!

    Posted by: Jake | Oct 10, 2009 11:34:28 PM

  4. This was historic and important. We, on the other hand, respond with impatience. Although I think the criticisms about the lack of action are valid, they also fail to understand the machinations of government. That doesn't mean we're naive, it just means that we aren't tolerant of the scum & sludge that lies beneath all the pretty words.

    Posted by: Domo | Oct 10, 2009 11:39:12 PM

  5. "we have never had a better friend" is beginning to sound distressingly like a talking point.

    and you in your 30's, plus or minus,might want to recalibrate your timetables some. this fight did not begin with you. i am 66, and i came out and started agitating for my rights after standing up for others, first blacks and then women, and even migrant workers.

    i was living in dade county when we fought to get an equal rights law passed, only to have it snatched back by anita and her minions.

    i have fought for my full slate of constitutional rights for nearly 40 years, not 9 months or 8 years or 10m years. in all likelihood, i will not live to SEE the end of a second obama term.

    do you now propose that i am being snarky or immature. i am old enough to know bullshit when its handed to me no matter how nicely wrapped the package is, and to name it as such. i doubt you will find many of my generation, or of those in their teens and 20's who perceive this as anything but the tongue bath it is.

    impatient... i should think so !

    Posted by: jack | Oct 10, 2009 11:48:02 PM

  6. If I had a chance to ask questions, I'd say to him:

    WHEN? you have a timetable?

    Posted by: Carlos | Oct 10, 2009 11:49:29 PM

  7. I'm frustrated like the rest of us . . . but I don't possibly see how he can add anything to his plate. Health care, 2 miserable wars, global warming, the great recession . . . the list goes on. I know we've waited for a long time, but we may have to wait longer.

    Even if he did push, Congress is a mess.

    Posted by: Victor | Oct 10, 2009 11:58:06 PM

  8. I can understand many of your frustrations that things are not moving fast enough. We now live in a society with the attitude that "I want it, and I want it now!" I have been a gay man for more that 50 years. As a gay teenager, I never, ever thought I would hear this kind of a speech from the President of the United States. I hope it doesn't take until 2017 to get all of the equalities we deserve, cause if I live that long I'll be close 80 years old. Well, this will give me something to live and look forward to. Hell, I waited this long..............

    Posted by: Ted Larson | Oct 11, 2009 12:05:41 AM

  9. To Jack and others...

    I certainly can't speak for all of the individuals who have been defending the President on Towle and other LGBT sites, but I can give you my perspective.

    As a blue-state Caucasian gay man in my early twenties, I had a relatively painless coming out process, even to my Republican parents. I can definitively say that as a direct result of the decades of activism that older queer activists have put in, I have face very little discrimination in my entire life.

    I have nothing but the deepest of respect for the men and women who have devoted their lives to ending LGBT oppression, with the ultimately goal of ending discrimination for future generations. Their sacrifices should never be forgotten.

    But to our disagreement. Something in America is changing. The tide has turned and public opinion is swinging soundly in our direction. The majority of Americans now support federalized domestic partnerships, an end to DADT, an end to condoned discrimination in housing and employment, and stricter penalties for hate crimes. And that's just a few of the big ones.

    Where we disagree, though, is in which tactics we should implement to take equality the final five yards into the end zone.

    It seems to me, and accept my humblest apologies if I'm mistaken, that the older generations of LGBT activists seem to believe that a hard line approach to activism is the most beneficial. Some examples include: Politician's who stand with us on every issue except for gay marriage but who you refuse to view as an ally, demanding non-passage for an ENDA if you don't have the votes to include trans men and women, mass marches/protests, etc.

    As a younger gay man, I question the effectiveness of this style of activism. Obama has been clear and forceful that he stands with us on every issue but marriage. Should we really turn our back on him? Should we really turn our back on queer politician's like Barney Frank who disagree when it come to tactics? (Granted, why he isn't more delicate with his statements, I'll never understand)

    America's political process is a great one, but a complex one. If we hope to be successful in it, we need to consider who holds the real power. It's not Obama. Outside of signing or vetoing bills he is presented with, he has no power legislatively on queer issues.

    He could ignore the constitution and end DADT, but that sets a bad precedent for future President's not sympathetic to the cause. He could have refused to issue a brief defending DOMA, but then what about the next president? What if ENDA passes, and is challenged in court? Don't we want the government to defend it's laws? Of course.

    So, what should we do? I have a few ideas. Where is the local activism? Where are the groups of men and women assembling and scheduling meetings with moderate Republican's and blue-dog democrats? Why aren't we meeting with the hard-line Republican congressmen seeing if we can find common ground on AIDs issues? Where is the pre-vote advertising blitz encouraging allies to contact their congressmen urging them to support queer equality?

    Because both houses of Congress have so much power in the system, we need to focus our efforts there. Where they matter. Obama is doing what he can, but he needs our support.

    Apologies for such a long message. I assume many of you just skipped over it, assuming it was one of Leland's. I know I would have.

    Posted by: Aaron Rowland | Oct 11, 2009 12:23:36 AM

  10. Thank you Patrick, Thank you Chris in AK, Thank you Cameron.

    We need to be PATIENT. The man hasn't even been in office A YEAR... he has more than 3 left... and will get re-elected if America knows what's good for it. I mean... HELLO???

    Some of us are as quick to throw up our hands as others are to throw up their legs... We've got to hang in there. the time may not be now... but our time IS COMING.

    Posted by: Drew | Oct 11, 2009 12:50:25 AM

  11. Glad you had such an easy time, Rowland. I'm part of "the older generation of LBGT activists." How old? I'm 62.

    And 3/4 of my dearest friends are dead.

    One of them was Morty Manford, who President Obama mentioned in his speech tonight. If if Morty were only here to give Obama a piece of his mind!

    He didn't take prisoners.

    Yes the world is changing and in a great many ways the wind is at our backs. The only straight politician I can think of who has ever done anything for us is Gavin Newsom. His exception proves the rule.

    We do it by ourselves.


    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 11, 2009 12:50:39 AM

  12. He offered nothing new, but the positive is that he did bring the media's attention to the march and gay rights.

    Don't think so? Check out the major, front page headlines on,, The Christian Science Monitor, and even The first thing you see in large fonts and photos is about Obama's speech for gay rights.

    Posted by: damien | Oct 11, 2009 1:05:15 AM

  13. I share your determination to end the inequities in the law, David, I really do. And I agree that passion is an important asset in having your voice be heard, but I simply cannot agree with your final statement.

    Maybe your views were accurate back when you first began your activism, but now, powerful straight allies exist in all levels of government. In Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont heterosexual legislators played critical roles alongside their queer colleagues in working to pass same-sex marriage bills through their respective legislatures. Three heterosexual governors in those states proudly signed the bills into effect.

    Completely dismissing heterosexual politicians as being useless to the cause does absolutely nothing for us. That's the mentality I'm talking about in comparing the old-school, us versus them mentality of activists from prior generations. The diplomacy of today requires a softer touch.

    Posted by: Aaron Rowland | Oct 11, 2009 1:06:15 AM

  14. Dear Gays:

    Health care reform will save millions of lives. MILLIONS.

    Gay marriage, ENDA, and ending DADT may also save lives--but not millions.

    So kindly shut up and wait your turn. The man's been in office less than a year.

    Waiting until Obama's second term would be a helluva lot better than having a Republican president in 2012. Think about that.

    Posted by: Pahada | Oct 11, 2009 1:41:02 AM

  15. This was a historic speech. And speeches alone do not secure equal rights, but it is clear he is an ally, if not our hoped-for/ expected 'savior' who will magically transform the deep-seated homophobia in our country, while we all sit on our asses.

    If ALL you are doing is bitching online, you need to STFU, and get your ass out into the REAL WORLD and take action to demand your rights. If you don't, you're nothing but useless.

    If you have done work IN THE REAL WORLD and are still unsatisfied, I say...understood, and your job is not yet done. We have many enemies and progress for us is won against those who would still harm us at every opportunity.

    Continue to demand that Obama live up to his promises, AND TAKE ACTION to support those who are attempting to secure our rights.

    Posted by: Dennis | Oct 11, 2009 2:28:36 AM

  16. Jesus christ.

    Shut up and wait your turn? WE'VE BEEN WAITING SINCE THE DAWN OF FUCKING TIME.

    Secondly, oh we have an ally in Obama. Really? WHAT HAS HE DONE BESIDES GIVE PRETTY SPEECHES. Who the fuck cares if he SAYS he stands with us. Anybody can say that. Has he ever actually stood with us? Has he ever done anything concrete to show that yeah, he's on our side?


    I'm tired of people saying "wait". People ALWAYS say wait. Wait for what? There will ALWAYS be something "more important" going on to prevent us from getting our rights.

    I, for one, don't give a rats fucking ass about 2 wars OF CONVENIENCE fought with MY tax dollars to further some dipshit conservative imperialist agenda.

    I don't give a rats ass about people dying in hospitals as it concerns my equal rights. Why? Because THERE WILL ALWAYS BE PEOPLE DYING IN HOSPITALS. They aren't going anywhere. Giving me my equal rights IS NOT GOING TO MAKE THEM DIE ANY FASTER, OR CAUSE MORE OF THEM TO SHOW UP AT HOSPITAL DOORS.

    I mean i find this argument ridiculous:

    "Obama has too much on his plate right now, he can't deal with equal rights."

    So he can do 500 other things all at once.. the economy, healthcare, wars, nutjobs at home, financial regulation, 500 distinct and different things, ALL AT THE SAME TIME... but he can't go for 501 and add gay rights to that?

    Is that your argument? Seriously? He can do everything else at the same time, but not gay rights?

    That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard and all you people actually expressing this retarded thought should be put into cages until you can deal with adult situations LIKE ADULTS, and not battered wives.
    Read your fucking history.

    Posted by: Grimmlok | Oct 11, 2009 2:38:55 AM

  17. He'll decide on what or what not to say about those referendums later. Right now, he's just voting "present".Gotta keep both sides happy. 2012 is just around the corner. He needs all those religious wacko votes too,

    Posted by: glennmcgahee | Oct 11, 2009 3:27:36 AM

  18. Yay!!! We're all in tuxedos and the president pissed in our direction!!!

    How fucking Gay can you get?


    Posted by: Mark | Oct 11, 2009 3:27:53 AM

  19. @ Aaron Rowland

    Why don't you come back and talk to us when you're 45. I think you'll have a very different perspective then.

    It sounds to me like you have no idea about the "decades of activism that older queer activists have put in." The "hard line approach to activism" developed in the 80s was in DIRECT response to genocidal inaction of Republican President Reagan on AIDS. He spent millions on the Tylenol scare that killed a handful of people and nothing on AIDS that killed Gay men and intravenous drug users. We didn't have time for that "softer touch" you describe because we were being killed.


    My biggest problem with young Gay men is their ignorance. They have no idea how distraught their history is.

    Posted by: Mark | Oct 11, 2009 3:40:34 AM

  20. David Ehrenstein is right and what he said bears repeating:

    "We do it by ourselves.


    Posted by: Mark | Oct 11, 2009 3:41:41 AM

  21. Face it. The man cannot and will not do anything until re-elected.

    We just better hope and pray he is re-elected.

    Posted by: Mark | Oct 11, 2009 3:45:23 AM

  22. @ Aaron Rowland

    I suggest you and all young Gay people watch this YouTube video of Cleve Jones interviewed today, October 10, 2009:

    Posted by: Mark | Oct 11, 2009 4:00:31 AM

  23. Mark,

    I think you may have misinterpreted my views about modern activism tactics as some kind of attack against on queer activism of the past. In no way did I intend to suggest that past activism is responsible for any type of delay in equality. I should have been clearer, and I'll work in the future to be more concise in my word choice and phrasing.

    I'm sure that you are also correct about my age having a significant influence on my perspective. I haven't been working for decades as many of you have, just to see my efforts fizzle as politician after politician throws us and our issues under the bus. I'm not sure it's fair, though, to criticize my knowledge of queer history, culture, or activism. I believe I am as well versed as a person my age could be, considering the literary and biographical resources available.

    I appreciate that the Reagan era (coinciding with the rapid accession of AIDs) created an intensely hostile climate for gays and lesbians in this country, requiring a hard line approach to activism. You're right. It was about survival.

    That was then. Now, in mainstream national politics, that climate doesn't exist. What may have worked very successfully back then, may not work in the current situation.

    I very much appreciate your willingness to engage in this dialogue Mark. I would only ask that you keep your mind open about where future activism needs to trend. As I've said many times, the hard work that you and other activists have put in over the years, has allowed us to reach the place we are now at.

    I know some readers likely view me as a snot-nosed little kid, whose eye's have yet to be opened to the harshest of realities. That may be the case. It's hard for me to argue otherwise. Even if thats your perspective, though, hopefully you can sleep soundly knowing that it's hard-line activism that's allowed this snot-nosed kid to exist pretty comfortably in a place without much homophobia.

    Posted by: Aaron Rowland | Oct 11, 2009 4:03:40 AM

  24. David Ehrestein shame on you. First off I'm old enough not to take age bait card, so put it back in your purse. How dare you say "We do it by ourselves". I saw another post by a PFLAG parent. PFLAG began in 1972 when Jeanne Manford marched with her gay son in New York's Pride Day. She was straight. They are marching tomorrow. “By ourselves” You ungrateful spoiled negative nellie (Thank you RJNYC). I can think of many people in this group alone that help and don't sit on the sideline bitching. The wind it to our backs and it's a wonderful feeling, one I will take becuase we have never had it before. When AIDS hit is was a horrifying time. Everyone, if they were lucky to be alive, David, had it bad. It made it worst for gay people because it was called the "gay disease". If it were not for some very power straight people at the time, including but not limited to health care providers, we would not a fair as well as we did as lacking as it was. We have articles published today about same sex couples being refused to be with their partner as they lay with death so close. I remember a time that was not news. In fact it would have brought a barrage of support for the hospital's staff. Today, it is news that most people react sympathically. I could go on and on about that nonsense you want us to buy.

    The other old bitch, Jack, who thinks he is the only elderly gay person. You were in fucking Dade County?? How hard you must have had it! How did you possibly survive? I guess your memory is bad because in 1977 Dade County passed an antidiscrimination law that included sexual orientation. In 1977 bitch! There it passed with no problem when it's still difficult to get it passed these days. The only reason it got any attention is because of Anita Bryant. Now Anita before any of you other bitches bring her up, she was shown to be so crazy, that she lost her Orange Juice contract and her husband left her. I know a lot of gay people quit drinking OJ but I sure that would not have been enough to drop Anita. I am sure there were straight people also, David.

    Grimmlok I didn’t really know how to take your post. “Fair-weather faggot”? At first, I thought you were calling the ones of use, who are calling for patients and etc. ”fair-weather faggot but then realized you must be calling the ones complaining about Obama’s performance and he’s not doing enough. Because they are the real “fair-weather faggots” right? They supported Obama during the election but now things are rough for him and the honeymoon is over, are against him now for not getting ONLY the issues important to them enacted. They don’t see how the economy and health care are extremely important and I as a gay white man and other appreciate what he has done. I mean, I think a lot of people have been affected by the economy, not just straight people. I know me, if I was unemployed, would rather see things on the economy get a lot of attention because I sure as hell can’t afford to go buy a marriage license, a wedding, honeymoon or anything else that would be great to do. For the same people and others who can’t afford insurance, would like being able to afford it. That way they can be healthy and live long enough to get married. That reference to Rosa Parks and the bus boycott? That is a slap in the face of the civil rights movement. The people of that time suffered far more than we have and yes it has been bad for us. We can pretend to be straight and hide if we are threatened in someway. They couldn’t very well change their color could they? Plus I don’t remember reading about them complaining when someone stood up for them, especially a president, when he made a renewed promise for equality.

    I don’t take Obama for granted. I appreciate him, his history and his family. He could have been justifiably focused on issues to the black community. You people who complain, seem to forget what history was made when he was elected. Instead of him resting on that accomplishment he has gone out to help the gay community, be effective with repairing the economy, kept the debate on healthcare reform alive and isn’t going to let it die, just like he promised. He has kept so many of his campaign promises and you cannot see the donut for the hole. I guess that is what you are focused on instead of issues that are tied to DADT, DOMA and EDNA.

    When he did not bring the Washington and Maine initiatives, I think he saw the result it got in California. It may be that him making the remarks he did further polarized people and brought out more people to vote that were for it so that it would fail just because he it not to pass.

    I know we have good reason to trust our President. The rest of you, think he can just snap his fingers and just make the changes. Do you realize the Bush policies that reversed (oh I forgot, he hasn’t done nothing, ignorant bitches) President Sarah Palin will be able to do the same thing.

    I almost believe that the “negative nellies” (LOL) are plants for the religious right. You have to be because the way you are acting, complaining, being divisive is Grimmlok, I mean hemlock, poison to our community and cause. To all my friends who are in support of Obama, THANK YOU! You truly are the wise and most savvy here. BTW, thanks also for the PFLAG members for marching tomorrow even though David Ehrestein and Hemlock thinks that we do this on our own. You did not choose to have a GLBT child but you did choose your response to them of love and support, even coming out a parents of GLBT can be a extremely hard thing to do and is apparently can be thankless as well. I appreciate every step you take and do not take for granted the work you have done especially the ones that have lost their children to AIDS or bay bashing.

    OK, all you negative nellies, get outside of you gay neighborhoods, start reading main stream news like The New York Times (David, I don’t think they are all gay and they have had some incredible articles in support of us) and makes some diverse friends that are, I don’t know, straight.
    Remember the world is about 10% gay. We have a lot of attitudinal barries that are not seen, hard to recognize but must be dealt with. Also, there are a lot of countries where it is perfectly legal to kill someone because they are gay and you bitching about having to wait.

    Posted by: JF-JohnF | Oct 11, 2009 4:15:19 AM


    All this bullshit because some of you Hllary supporters feel ENTITLED for him to cater to you hand and foot.

    Sometimes I wish he'd just resign because some of you queens are just like the crazy right wingers

    NOTHING HE'LL DO WILL EVER SATISFY YOU. Even if there was gay marriage, No more D.A.D.T and no more D.O.M.A.

    You'd still find a way to say He's done nothing just because

    So why should he bother????

    Posted by: Chris | Oct 11, 2009 5:01:20 AM

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