Jun 30, 2009 6:05 AM GMT
President Barack Obama Monday, with First Lady Michelle Obama standing at his side, delivered a sweeping, nearly 20-minute speech that paid tribute to the LGBT movement and promised concrete steps toward equality would be taken during his administration.
“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,” Obama said to the applause of about 250 attendees midway through his speech.
The president acknowledged the frustration felt by many LGBT activists who have felt that his administration has not moved quickly enough on key pieces of legislation, such as repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” and overturning the Defense of Marriage Act.
“We've been in office six months now,” he said in an assured, matter-of-fact tone, “and I suspect that by the time this administration's over, you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration.”
On policy, the president called on Congress to repeal what he called the “so-called” Defense of Marriage Act, but he also stopped short of repudiating the Justice Department’s brief supporting DOMA, which drew intense reaction from activists when it was filed earlier this month.
“I want to add, we have a duty to uphold existing law, but I believe we must do so in a way that does not exacerbate old divides,” he said, “and fulfilling this duty and upholding the law in no way lessens my commitment to reversing this law.”
Obama also urged passage of Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and a fully inclusive Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill.
The president reiterated his campaign contention that the discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy undermines the effectiveness of the nation’s military.
“In fact, I believe preventing patriotic Americans from serving their country weakens our national security,” he said to cheers from the crowd. “Now, my administration is already working with the Pentagon and members of the House and the Senate on how we'll go about ending this policy, which will require an act of Congress.”
Obama admitted that each passing day that finds no resolution to the ban brings “deep disappointment” to those who continue to be discharged. But he also seemed to dismiss the idea of issuing an executive order to suspend the policy in the short term.
“As commander in chief, in a time of war, I do have a responsibility to see that this change is administered in a practical way and a way that takes over the long term” he said, adding that he has asked the secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs chairman to develop a plan for implementing repeal.
Obama detailed the birth of the modern LGBT movement outside the Stonewall Inn in 1969 before reaching his conclusion.
“The truth is when these folks protested at Stonewall 40 years ago no one could have imagined that you -- or, for that matter, I -- would be standing here today,” he said. “So we are all witnesses to monumental changes in this country. That should give us hope, but we cannot rest. We must continue to do our part to make progress -- step by step, law by law, mind by changing mind. And I want you to know that in this task I will not only be your friend, I will continue to be an ally and a champion and a president who fights with you and for you.”
Full Speech Can Be Found Here: