Amid cheers, President Barack Obama told gay and lesbian supporters Wednesday that he has delivered on his promises — but he gave them no new assurances on gay marriage and acknowledged their disappointment.
“I’ve met my commitments to the LGBT community,” Obama told a few hundred attendees at an LGBT Pride Month reception at the White House. “I know there are going to be times where you’re still frustrated with the pace of change. I understand that. I know I can count on you to let me know.”
Earlier Wednesday, in the same room, Obama had stood before reporters at a news conference and declined to say whether he now supports gay marriage.
He praised the vote by New York legislators last week to legalize same-sex marriage there, calling it “a good thing, because what you saw was the people of New York having a debate, talking through these issues. It was contentious, it was emotional, but ultimately, they made a decision to recognize civil marriages. And I think that’s exactly how things should work.”
Obama, a supporter of civil unions, has opposed same-sex marriage in the past but said during a news conference in December that his “feelings are constantly evolving” on the subject, adding, “I struggle with this.”
“We need to keep the pressure on and take ‘yes’ for an answer,” said Dan Savage, a prominent Seattle columnist and gay activist who attended the East Room reception with his husband, Terry Miller.
Savage wore on his shirt a small button that said “evolve already.”
“He says he’s evolving, I believe him,” Savage said. “I want to hurry him along.”
New York last week became the sixth state to recognize same-sex marriage, a major victory for proponents of gay marriage that some had hoped would help persuade Obama to take a lead on the issue nationally.
Fred Sainz, vice president for communications at the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay-rights organization, praised Obama’s record on gay issues but said he is troubled by the president’s comments about states deciding whether to legalize gay marriage.
“The problem is there are 41 states where (same-sex) marriage is illegal,” Sainz told POLITICO. “The conversation has been concluded in those 41 states.”
In those states, “that discrimination has been enshrined,” Sainz added. “So it’s incumbent on the federal government to reverse that discrimination.”
Criticism over Obama’s stance has grown more perceptible among his gay and lesbian supporters, and a defiant note has crept into the president’s remarks in the past few weeks to gay and lesbian audiences. He has emphasized all he has done and promises he has kept, which never included support for gay marriage.
On Wednesday he spoke for fewer than 10 minutes, running through his list accomplishments on gay rights — including extending benefits for the partners of federal workers, repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and dropping the federal government’s legal defense of the law barring federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
“A lot of people said we weren’t going to be able to get “don’t ask, don’t tell” done, including a bunch of people in this room,” Obama said. “The bottom line is we got it done.”
Gregory King, a spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees who attended the reception, said gay marriage is not at the top of everyone’s agenda.
“I think Obama has done more for the LGBT community than any president in history,” King said.
[Hat tip to Richard Grennell’s blog — I’ve stopped reading Politico regularly because of the high flak-to-news ratio.]
Richard Grennel pointed out to me, reporter Julie Mason’s list of “Obama’s accomplishments” on gay rights is false — Obama did not extend benefits to partners of government employees. But then, Politico is a publication whose editors go on TV and assert that futures market prices have no affect on current commodity prices (like petroleum), because no one there knows any economics.
It’s a conundrum for the pro-regressive Obama felchers. On the one hand flaks like Michael Beschloss (and is he a closet queen? is there word on that?) say Obama is a genius with an off-the-chats IQ (his college and law school transcripts hidden simply out of modesty) and a Constitutional Law Scholar (throw a dart and hit any Demwit pig to hear one squeal that). On the other hand he was too stupid to realize that when he signed an Executive Order giving spouses of gay federal workers benies, DOMA would prevent it (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/politics/gay-spouses-and-government-benefits/2011/03/22/ABM8sBFB_story.html). More empty promises while he reaches for the gay wallet.
Below is the official White House Press Pool Report from President Obama’s Pride reception at the White House.
In it you will see that Dan Savage thinks supporting gay marriage is being “out on the furthest limb” for Obama so he isn’t furious with him for his position. Savage also predicts that Obama won’t ”evolve” on gay marriage until February, 2013 – after the next presidential election. You will also see that union spokesman Gregory King thinks gays aren’t prioritizing marriage so Obama doesn’t need to either. With supporters like these it’s no wonder Obama doesn’t feel pressure from the gay community.
From: Julie Mason
To: Finkenbinder, Benjamin N.
Cc: Hughes, Caroline E.
Sent: Wed Jun 29 18:43:29 2011
Subject: Pool Report #1 pride reception
No, he didn’t endorse gay marriage.
The East Room contained: a few hundred attendees, a full bar, a couple of small, round tables covered in shimmery purple cloth piled high with canapes and desserts: puff pastries, baby lamb chops, mini cupcakes, slices of cake and more. The centerpieces were oversized bouquets of roses in pink, orange, red and purple. A band played light jazz and R&B.
The crowd was mostly white and the men significantly outnumbered the women. Dan Savage was there — quotes from him after Obama.
Obama entered the room at 6 p.m. to huge cheers. Facing north, he assured the crowd that “Nothing ruins a party like a long speech from a politician” and promised to go short. He talked about his accomplishments so far — hospital visits, DADT, DOMA, etc.
He said he understands the frustration many in the gay community feel about the pace of accomplishments — “I know I can count on you to let me know,” he said. “This is not a shy group.”
The crowd interrupted him a few times with spontaneous cheers and applause — when he mentioned “spouses” (without endorsing the concept) and more. Check the transcript. He spoke for about nine minutes.
Dan Savage, a columnist, author and gay activist was there with his husband (they married in Canada), Terry Miller. Dan was wearing a black and white plaid shirt with a small button that said, “evolve already.” Terry wore a white shirt with a hot pink bow tie.
“I believe the president should evolve,” Savage said. “He says he’s evolving, I believe him.” He added, “I want to hurry him along.”
Savage, a strong proponent for gay marriage, said his presence at the White House should not be construed as a surrender on the issue. “We can scream and yell and be dicks and wear buttons” and still eat Obama’s cupcakes and drink his champagne, Savage said.
He predicted Obama’s evolution on gay marriage would be complete in February, 2013. Savage called Obama’s politics “the art of the possible.”
“We need to keep the pressure on and take ‘yes’ for an answer,” Savage said.
“I’m not one of the gay activists furious at the president because he’s not out on the furthest limb” on gay marriage, Savage said.
Also in the room and willing to make eye contact with the pool: Gregory King, a spokesman for AFSCME and a former spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign Fund.
King said, “I think Obama has done more for the LGBT community than any president in history.”
“He’s been effective at bringing change and ending discrimination,” King said.
Regarding gay marriage, “I know many couples who wouldn’t place that at the top of the agenda,” King said.