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. thanks for sharing jf...

    as it happens, i didn't a;ways live in dade. i have lived all over the country, and not as a privileged gay, but as a working guy with never enough money and not much positive to do with what i did have.

    my history is mine, jf, and you do us both a disservice by inventing a fictional one. i now live in sw florida, hardly a bastion of liberalism, on my $600 a month social security check, and i spent the last two years getting my 85 tear old mother care and treatment for alzheimers singlehandedly. i8 know what hardship is, and i know what lack of community is.

    what i am saying is, feel free to disagree, but you need to back the fuck off passing judgment on me and my fellow travelers. enough said...

    Posted by: jack | Oct 11, 2009 5:26:40 AM

  2. 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....Oh FUCK YOU pal!!! Did he let them eat cake too?

    Posted by: mike K | Oct 11, 2009 5:28:28 AM

  3. I don't know if you listened to the same speech that I listened to, but the President told our story, embraced our families, made the case for equality, and explained the enmity of some of our fellow americans. That's progress. And he's got lots of work to do on our behalf including repealing DADT and DOMA.

    So to some of the older gay men who say they are tired of waiting for equal rights, i say channel that anger into something productive like canvasing, talking to voters, etc. But don't just whine and complain. Do something.

    I, for one, will keep pressing Obama on his promises tonight AND doing the incredibly hard work of making equality a reality.

    Posted by: Joe in SF | Oct 11, 2009 5:44:07 AM

  4. President Obama is by far the best advocate we've ever had. Really Jonny? Based on what evidence? Specifically what has he DONE to make you think that? Give me one example.

    Posted by: mike K | Oct 11, 2009 5:46:09 AM

  5. While I was disappointed he didn't meantion Maine and Washington, or commit to some easy steps on DADT, there is no denying he has raised the bar very high with this speech.

    While Clinton did address HRC before, Obama is only the 2nd president to do so. He's doing it in his first year, on the eve of a march on Washington. He spoke positively on all the notable issues LGBTs have put before him, and made it clear to the people who doubt or confuse the issue that he opposes the (his words) "so-called Defense of Marriage Act". If that alone doesn't stir you, what will?

    I also thought this closing story was heartfelt. He understands what we are fighting for.

    His explicit and forceful statements of support today make it much harder for Democrats in Congress to drag their feet on these issues. The ball is clearly in their court now.

    It's not an ideal speech, or the best he's ever made, but I'm very happy with what I heard, and the way he said it.

    Posted by: Randy | Oct 11, 2009 6:00:50 AM

  6. The President’s HRC speech reduced to one sentence: If we get him the bills, he will fiercely sign them.

    Posted by: Arthur | Oct 11, 2009 7:28:28 AM

  7. I think it's way too little, too late for all the soldiers kicked out during his presidency, let alone during at least the past 15 years. How are you going to even fix those travesties of justice? How can Congressmembers and our "leaders" actively continue to destroy the principles of liberty and equality that America is supposed to be for everyone?

    Posted by: x-guy | Oct 11, 2009 7:35:28 AM

  8. During his brief time in office he has managed to alienate a huge portion of the LGBT community. I am one of those people. But for some stupid reason, I do believe what Obama said last night with regards to ENDA, DADT, DOMA and the hate crimes bill.

    But we need to continue to be vocal and hold Obama, his administration and Congress accountable to make this happen.

    Today we MARCH! And we will continue to MARCH until we have EQUALITY!

    Posted by: Daniel | Oct 11, 2009 8:24:20 AM

  9. Interesting to contrast this piece's headline and take with the headline at the Wall Sreet Journal: 'Obama to end don't tell miltary policy'

    Posted by: M_Doe | Oct 11, 2009 8:35:41 AM

  10. Fuck You "Jf-JohnF"! Morty Manford was a friend of mine, and a compatriot at GAA. You know NOTHING of gay rights history.


    It you did you'd know what a pathetic bunch of upper-class twits the HRC is made up of.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 11, 2009 8:47:33 AM

  11. So let's see....

    No stop orders on DADT dismissals, which is perfectly constitutional. Instead we have almost 450 servicemen and -women discharged since January.

    He talks a good game on DOMA, and yet has now relegated us to the back of the bus on full marriage equality. He *used* to support it, but as soon as he ran for President, he decided he was politically safer with "domestic partnerships". So we win battles on the state level, and your "fierce advocate" turns around and reminds us that all we can hope for federally is an inherently unequal status.

    I can't believe that people are still supporting this man as a fierce advocate for LGBT rights when all he will do is whatever will get him re-elected, and we all know how that works....

    2010 will be the wrong time because we need to make sure that the Democrats win the mid-term election.

    2012 will be bad because Obama will want to get re-elected.

    Oh, and forget 2016, we'll be needing to get the next Democrat who speaks from both sides of his or her mouth in office while screaming "the rethuglicans are coming!"

    How terribly sad that we've been reduced to accepting pretty speeches and lies.

    Posted by: DR | Oct 11, 2009 8:52:27 AM

  12. I would have liked to attend that dinner, but I am one of the unemployed masses and I need to put food on the table, not spend money to get all dressed up and listen to someone reiterate a bunch of campaign promises.

    Posted by: Mark Wilbur | Oct 11, 2009 8:57:44 AM

  13. Aaron,

    Not every gay person has it as easy as you, "coming out" to family and friends and living your life. I'm one of those people who had a really tough time, even though I'm still a young guy myself, and I imagine that the older generation faced even harder times. I think that the gay people who have suffered more as a result of this country's laws and culture are the angriest ones, the most impatient ones, and I think that's fully justified. If we have been hurt the most, I think we understand better the urgency of the situation for all the other gay people out there today who don't have it so easy.

    The problem is that the gay people who have it the toughest are usually the ones not speaking out, because they can't. Whether they're soldiers or teenage children of Southern Baptists or the gay couple with no money in the city trying to get health care and jobs. So all the other gays who don't face as much difficulty have to still fight harder, for all those people who can't fight, who can't scream out right now, for whatever reason. There are many, many people who need action now. That's why I am not satisfied at speeches like this, so late. At least hate crimes protection may be coming soon. Some of us wish we had that decades ago.


    Posted by: X | Oct 11, 2009 9:30:17 AM

  14. X,

    I completely empathize with you and other's who faced severe adversity coming out and I understand the need for immediate action on LGBT issues. I don't disagree.

    I'm certainly not in the same camp as the folks who have been posting that we "need to wait our turn." My only point is that the hard-line tactics of yesterday might not be the most effective way to quickly achieve equality today.

    You say you're dissatisfied with just "speeches", but the president isn't the king of the legislative branch. He doesn't get to decide what legislation they pass and on what timeline they pass it. If you're talking about the DOMA brief or because you want a DADT moratorium, see above for my posts on the longer term consequences of that.

    We do need to move quickly forward, because people are suffering. We just need to be careful that we are moving deliberately and with intelligence. Thats all I'm trying to say.

    Posted by: Aaron Rowland | Oct 11, 2009 9:45:06 AM

  15. Blah-Blah-Blah. Words, that's all they are. Let's see action.

    As for the HRC and DNC. My funds have dried up. No more money until DADT, DOMA and Hate Crimes is passed and signed into law.

    HRC 2016? Let's say by 2012, no action, no money, no votes! 3 Years is ample time for President Obama and the DNC to fufill its promises made. THIS TERM!

    Posted by: David | Oct 11, 2009 10:49:46 AM

  16. That Obama thinks equality doesn't "happen overnight" is proof of his ignorance and heterosexism. We have been waiting since the beginning of goddamn time. He just got here 11 months ago.

    Why didn't he mention Maine or DC...or anyting relevant? Can't alientate the religious right-wing Republitards. Politicians are about votes and power...not "change" or "equality".

    You HRC Gaytards are so gullible. What is that like? Oh, nevermind, I know - as long as ONLY the rich faggots in tuxedos drunk on champagne get to watch the president narrate Gay history to them everyone is "equal"!!! Yay!!!

    If you doubt you're stupid fucking faggots go back and listen to yourselves cheer the Bigot-in-Chief last night on that video.

    Assimilationist Gaytards.

    Posted by: Mark | Oct 11, 2009 10:56:26 AM

  17. so i'm supposed to hate him for this, right?

    nah, thought it was good fwiw

    sorry guys

    Posted by: steve | Oct 11, 2009 10:59:06 AM

  18. 'I'm frustrated like the rest of us . . . but I don't possibly see how he can add anything to his plate.'

    POSTED BY: VICTOR | OCT 10, 2009 11:58:06 PM
    Jon Stewart said it best last week. You are the President. GET A FUCKING BIGGER PLATE!!!!

    Posted by: patrick nyc | Oct 11, 2009 11:31:05 AM

  19. It occurs to me that a great deal of the anger being expressed is due to a) Clinton selling us out with DADT, followed by b) eight fucking years of supressed rage at Bush & Co. Obama hasn't been in office ten months and we're going all Vida Pierce on him.

    Posted by: Domo | Oct 11, 2009 11:59:50 AM

  20. Why doesn't he sign the stop loss order? Because it can be undone just as easily by future presidents. Going thru Congress to undo the law is a process and will stick much longer.
    He has talked to the Pentagon and advocate leaders of ending DADT and they are advising him to do it the right way (according to them) as most laws are passed. He is just listening to those who work with it and know more about it.

    Posted by: Otter | Oct 11, 2009 12:21:20 PM

  21. All this when we have a president who is actually going to sign hate crimes legislation and an Attorney General who has called the Civil Rights Division the "crown jewel" of the Department of Justice AND is committed to actually having it do something-- instead of languishing like it did the past eight years.

    I mean how many people have worked so hard just to get us to THIS point.

    When I read this kind of kevetching, part of me wishes McCain et. al. would have won.

    Sigh . . . .

    Posted by: BMF | Oct 11, 2009 12:21:56 PM

  22. I see the roster of bitchy venom-spewing queens were out in force with the snide comments.

    Look, here's the brutal truth you constant center-of-attention grabbing whores: we're NOT the most important item on this administration's agenda right now; there are far, FAR more important issues like getting the economy back on the right track, passing health-care reform, overseeing the two wars we are fighting, trying to stop Iran from nuking the Middle East, etc.

    If the White House were to focus NOW on repealing DADT or DOMA, the right wing-nuts would chip away at his popularity making the above listed and more-important issues moot, and raise questions amongst independent voters who may decide NOT to support Obama in the next general election.

    Right now I am FAR more concerned about passing health-care reform than pushing for marriage rights for my non-existent partner. And that issue is also more important to GLBT families with children than getting hitched.

    The nation - not just the GLBT community - needs a shrewd politician in the White House right now to get all of the above listed things done....but in order of priority that benefits the nation as a whole - not only a small minority that comprises just 10% (or less) of the population.

    Also, he is NOT the person who repeals laws you morons; I didn't grow up in the USA and even I know that it's up to Congress to do that, and state laws and issues have to be approached at a local level, NOT through the White House. So the burden of responsibility of getting DADOT and DOMA repealed, and ENDA and the Matthew Sheppard Act passed is for the GLBT community to be pro-active and aggressively canvass our elected representatives to repeal discriminating laws and enact tougher measures against GLBT discrimination.

    Again, Prop 8 was enacted NOT because of the 'blacks' or the 'religious right'; it passed because the GLBT community was disorganized, lazy and complacent, expecting everything handed to them on a silver plate with their mai-tais, condoms and Ecstasy.

    This administration has done a lot for us in a mere 8 months with repealing the AIDS ban on visas, recognizing more GLBT benefits on for federal workers, recognizing GLBT families at official events, etc.

    What have YOU done recently to further GLBT rights? Or were y'all to busy trolling Towleroad and the internet for pictures of naked pretty boys that you would never, EVER have a chance at bagging?

    Posted by: CARIBTONY | Oct 11, 2009 1:21:37 PM

  23. "Look, here's the brutal truth you constant center-of-attention grabbing whores: we're NOT the most important item on this administration's agenda right now; there are far, FAR more important issues like getting the economy back on the right track, passing health-care reform, overseeing the two wars we are fighting, trying to stop Iran from nuking the Middle East, etc."

    Oh yes we are SO unworthy. We should be SO thankful he made time on his busy schedule of doing REAL WORK for REAL PEOPLE that he deigned to honor us with his august presence.

    Take the fucking gas pipe and save us a on of trouble "Caribtony."

    He can do Stop Loss RIGHT NOW ! And don't give me th pathetic excuse that he can't because someone will "reverse it."

    Here's my take on the whole sorry mess --

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 11, 2009 1:29:08 PM

  24. He can and should stop the discharges and show the crusty retired generals that gee, having gay men and women serve openly isn't a big deal. Instead, he's listening to a bunch of Republican holdovers who demand that we get studied to death. Once the folks in power see what most of America knows, which is that no one really cares, it'll pass that much easier. Instead, he's hiding behind the shield of "bipartisanism" so he can sit on his ass and take your money.

    You guys talk about entitlement? Let me explain a few things to you since it's clear to many of you that your priorities are clearly screwed up:

    So far, almost 450 men and women have lost their jobs due to DADT this year alone. The number since the mid-90s is what, over 10K now? The military is the largest employer in the country and also the worst in terms of discrimination. Where do these men and women go when they get kicked out? For every Dan Choi who gets a job as an activist, there are thousands who have to come back to their communities jobless.

    You don't think marriage rights are a big deal? So you don't care that your partner can't get that nice cushy health plan Obama's gonna push through because your employer doesn't have to give it to you, but has to give it to the dude in the next cubicle and his wife.

    You better make sure you write wills and power-of-attorney and keep them with you at all times. And make sure you have the right deed on your home. You die, your partner gets NOTHING. Your partner has no right to your estate, and even if you have a will, it can be challenged. So can your power-of-attorney, as we've seen recently. So if your partner dies, you might get a lawsuit and settlement for not being able to go in and see him/her, but you still never got to say goodbye.

    Do we really need to talk about taxes and workplace discrimination, or is that just common sense? And considering the tax code may be changing to disallow dependents, there goes the tax write-off we used to get.

    Shall I list more rights that us "whiners" recognize we don't have and aren't getting any time soon?

    Half of you have no clue what the consequences of what's going on in the world around you really are, and I pray you never will!

    Posted by: DR | Oct 11, 2009 2:03:58 PM

  25. So disappointed with the speech, and so moved by the anger of commentators on towleroad who are just so frustrated, particularly older gays who been campaigning for years. There's obviously a lack of understanding about the difference between how to speak if you're a president rather than a candidate.

    I'm puzzled by how he has a majority, a mandate and still offers nothing concrete. He could have placated critics by saying DADT will be removed by [add date here] but he didn't even do that.

    I'm sorry to dissent from those who think we need to wait our turn, but I just don't see the point of a speech to the HRC which doesn't promise action. We had this platitudinous speech-making in the Irish Republic time and again, and I'm not really surprised to learn about it in Obama's case. Perhaps American commentators here can answer me this: has he bottled it, did he ever have the bottle, should Hillary have been the candidate? If the DRC could dump the pilot, would Clinton run in 2012?

    Posted by: Sean R | Oct 11, 2009 2:15:05 PM

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