October 10th, 2009
07:01 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama to address major gay rights group

In June, the president and first lady hosted a reception at the White House in honor of LGBT Pride Month.
In June, the president and first lady hosted a reception at the White House in honor of LGBT Pride Month.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - While the gay rights community awaits President Barack Obama to make good on major campaign promises, he intends to address a range of issues, including hate crimes protections, when he speaks to the Human Rights Campaign on the eve of a massive gay rights rally.

Obama's speech at Saturday's dinner for the HRC, the nation's largest gay rights group, comes as gay rights activists lose patience over the lack of change to key issues for the gay community - including the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

"I think there was a lot of excitement that things were going to change and I think there is impatience that there hasn't been change fast enough," said Steve Elmendorf, a gay Democratic lobbyist.

Gays and lesbians expected more action from Obama, such as delivering on his campaign promise to urge Congress to pass legislation repealing "don't ask, don't tell" - a policy banning homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

Another issue is same-sex marriage, a battleground point in many states. While the president does not support same-sex marriage, he does want to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman.

"The bottom line is we have to move from memo signings - which he did during pride week - to bill signings," said one leading gay rights advocate, an Obama supporter who asked not to be named to avoid alienating the White House.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Friday that Obama will discuss "a range of issues," including hate crimes protections, which "are long overdue in the president's opinion."

Legislation was passed in the House this week widening the definition of hate crimes to include attacks based on sexual orientation and gender identity - a move that Obama believes "represents an important step," Gibbs said.

Obama "looks forward to, when that legislation gets to his desk, signing it and making that the law of the land," Gibbs added. "I think that's certainly part of what he'll discuss on Saturday night," Gibbs said.

A White House official, who requested anonymity, said Obama's remarks will focus on the steps he has and will take on issues affecting gays and lesbians.

"We expect the president to talk about the progress he has made in just the last 10 months. From passing hate crimes, to appointing openly gay people to high-level positions, to lifting the HIV-travel ban which has been in place for 20 years," according to an official with the Human Rights Campaign.

"Like many in our community, we'd specifically like him to address more definitively repealing 'don't ask, don't tell," the official said. "The president's beliefs about repeal are well-known, we are just interested in exact roadmap of how we get there."

–CNN's Jessica Yellin and Ed Henry contributed to this report.

Updated: 7:01 p.m.

soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. jr

    Has Larry Craig "come out" yet?

    October 10, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  2. Peter

    Just tell them to go and form sodomy state! and stop spreading abnormality!!

    October 10, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  3. Victim of Liberal stupidity

    We all seem to be missing what is going on in our Great Nation, this is a bipartisan coup by a Centralized group of elitists. Please get a copy of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution and read it, the principles of Government that our founding fathers established is based on STATES RIGHTS. It was never intended for us to have a centralized burdensome Federal Government dictated by a bunch of bureaucratic elitists, NEVER. That is what they escaped from, indentured slavery and taxation. The plight of minorities is simply a tool for the elitistists use to manipulate power and control over the ignorant and uninformed, wake up America. The established Government rule right or left has continued to dumb down our children through substandard education and free Government handouts. Stand up in 2010 and in 2012, Vote every incumbent out of office, establish a true American citizen candidate amongst your State levels dedicated to the cause of rebuilding America for America, for Liberty and Freedom!

    October 10, 2009 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  4. Party Purity will never bring Political Power!

    To all the neo-con right wingers stating homosexuality is a "preference" you hold the key to the whole issue! Just let us homosexual men know how you decide to be heterosexual.

    Is it a daily decision, maybe while shaving? One day you shave your face, the next day your legs?

    How does it work out when the wife wants to discuss drilling and you have chosen that day to be interested in drill bits?

    What if the little woman has chosen the fondness for flannel, power tools and deck building the same day you are packing wood?

    What happens on the day the wife wants to go see "Mama Mia" based on ABBA but you would rather stay home shadow dancing to “Dancing Queen" by ABBA? I do not know how you guys keep all the balls in the air so to speak!

    Maybe we will just start believing homosexuality is no more a choice or "preference" than is heterosexuality.

    For those of you still quoting from the Holy Book of Fables, you do realize that the book is a collection of the words of MAN passed down for generations via stories and then MEN selected which Fables which were then disguised as the "Word of God".

    You do realize that, right?

    October 10, 2009 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  5. jerry

    Patience, friends! This man is up to his eyeballs in huge problems, from recession to Afghanistan to health care and beyond. He is attacked viciously by the right every time he makes a move. Yet he keeps on keeping on. We are on the agenda, fear not. But it must come incrementally, and speed up as the primary problems are dealt with. Good steps have been taken already, the first inklings of what is to come. I feel certain that DADT's end is coming soon, after his study group makes its recommendations. His heart is in the right place, and we can look forward to a warm embrace. But not overnight.

    October 10, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  6. Enough

    More pandering by the Obama administration!!

    October 10, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  7. B. W. M

    There's a perfect example of a free loader: someone who has done nothing but carry his scin is awarded the US Presidency; someone who has done nothing for World Peace is awarded a Nobel Peace Prize; you get the message?

    This day and age, doing nothing, but having the right skin color gets you quite a bit.

    Let's turn the lights off, and go home. America is dead.

    October 10, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  8. valwayne

    Obama and the Democrats in Congress have betrayed their promises and every gay man and woman in the country. Obama remains the Discriminator in Chief with Don't ask don't tell still firmly the law of the land, and there's no move to allow civil unions. Any gay man or woman in 2010 who votes for a Democrats if they haven't gotten off their buts and fulfilled their promises is an idiot, a dupe, and a betrayer of the gay community. We've been throught this before 17 years ago with Clinton. All the promises, all the lies to get our votes and money. Its time to make Obama and the Democrats pay if they don't deliver. I'd just as soon have some right wing Republican who tells me I'm going to burn in hell refuse to end discrimination against gay men and women as someone who pretends to be my friend, lies to my face, and stabs me in the back!

    October 10, 2009 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  9. Obama/Biden

    I am very happy to see that the world is watching my president and at least think that you are deserved to be honored than a lot of Americans do. Many Americans to be specific, I would say the racist one who do not like blacks and Hispanics think that you are un-American and do not deserve to be president of the United states of America. Some said that your birth certificate was fake and that your presidency is illegal. Some said that you could not be the president of the US and they even said that you could be the president of Ethiopia and not America. Thus far, God proved them all wrong and shut them up and let them know that he is in control of this world. I want to warn those people who do not like people who are different from them in skin color to fear God because we are all God creation. It does not matter who you are African or Caucasian. Please do not fear what no man can do you president Obama because I know God elected you president of the US; the people vote you in but they did not do it. Not in a racist country like ours that Barack Obama could've become president without God help. So therefore, God will protect you and help you succeed.
    I know that people are trying to get you not to be a success just to criticize you as an African American. I know that they are expecting too much of you and they never expected that much from previous president. I wonder why. Is it because they are white like they are?
    God want me to tell you to approve the 40,000 thousand soldiers for the Afghanistan war because it is the right thing to do. You do not want to have not enough soldiers there because if the casualties increases because of not enough soldiers on the ground their, the American people will really get upset of you. I know that Republicans do not want you to succeed and for that reason they will oppose almost any major things you are trying to do. For these Republicans, it is not about the country or the people of America; it is to them about trying to make you look bad to the people to see if they can defeat you next election. These Republicans only care about money and power but, not the people who vote them in power. Do not worry because we the people realize what is going on and will do the right thing for the country. I want you and your administration not to worry too much about bipartisan work because Republicans are on a mission to defeat you and they do not care about the people. Some people think President Obama has a magical solution to all the problems the country is facing that took his predecessor many years to mess them up like they are. Only God has the magical solution overnight to everything; not you president Obama. The people need to give you time to work because you are only eight months into power. Always welcome them on the table but, they will never want to get involve. Mr. President please keep a positive attitude and keep on the good fight and do not let that medal peace of honor make you take the wrong decisions for Afghanistan. Remember not to worry because everything you do Republicans and those who want to see you hurt will never be happy with you. God raised you king like he rose David king over Israel. God told me to tell you more troops are needed for Afghanistan and Iraq need to come to a closure when the time is right to do so.

    October 10, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  10. mike

    Is Obama for, or against gay marriage? I do not recall his position on that.

    October 10, 2009 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  11. Ralph

    CNN, you anounce a "MASSIVE gay rights rally" before it even happens yet downplay thousands of people that held the TEA party rally in Washington.

    Your “news” is so bias that it should not surprise you that your ratings (and credibility) keep slipping.

    October 10, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  12. Censorship in Practice form at CNN--S Callahan NYS

    So many are eager for the Hate Crimes legislation..but the little secrect hidden behind the paperwork is yours, gay or straight, free speech on issues of faith are going to be suppressed 'at will'..meaning it will be pick and chose depending on the jurist. Not good for anyone, particulary in a free society. Senators, please be responsible and read all the i's and t's..it's not a joke.

    October 10, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  13. Operation Replacement

    Yet another group wanting victim status! Where will it end? Will rap
    artists become the next group wanting "protection?" How about
    polygamists? Welcome, folks, to the ever-expanding universe!

    October 10, 2009 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  14. Hirotomi Takemitsu

    I really appreciate having a new president, such as Barack Obama who is so 100% the opposite of the universally hated and reviled (except by lunatic right-wing evangelical nutjobs) George W. Bush.

    Obama has undone so much of Bush agenda that he deserved the Nobel Prize for peace, just for that.

    But I do hope than in speaking with/to the gathered gay community at this assembly, he does not promote a broader agenda of acceptance for homosexuality, or advocate same-sex marriage etc. If he does, despite all the awesome work he has done....he will be thru as President already. No point even campaigning for 2012.

    October 10, 2009 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  15. Jon Krieger

    This may sound like a bad joke,but its actually an earnest plea:Be straight with them!God knows he lies to everyone else!

    October 10, 2009 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  16. Ridgeway

    Good luck Hussein. Don't drop your speech.

    October 10, 2009 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  17. Dan

    This is the civil rights issue of our time. I'm so proud to have a president who is not afraid to face it for what it is.

    October 10, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  18. jules sand-perkins

    Isn't it gracious of President Obama to make himself available to speak at this affair!
    The President always gives such nice speeches–extraordinary speeches, in fact.
    I hope they enjoy his speech.

    That's about all they'll get from Obama.

    October 10, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  19. jules sand-perkins

    During the late 1950s, I wasn't Black, but I fought just as hard for Obama and others to get equal rights as if I had been Black.

    In 2009, I'm not gay either, but I'm here to tell Obama and everybody else that gay men and lesbians deserve every single right that anybody else has.
    Now is the time for them to get it.

    October 10, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  20. JOY

    WHY they can't wait, there are other things equally/more important . The majority of Americans would like their economic situation to improve the horrrible war needs extra attention also health care reform need to be fixed. WAIT WAIT .

    October 10, 2009 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  21. joe lockhart

    When will gays stop marching ? I guess when two big berley men can stand in the streets kissin like a man and woman.

    October 10, 2009 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  22. iloveobammy

    loves the gays, hates capatalism, wants free health care for illegals and colords that sit on their arses....sounds like a LOSER to me.

    I HOPE HE FAILS.

    October 10, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  23. Ann Montgomery

    As a mother of a gay son, and deeply concerned with gay rights, in all fairness, please be patient. Every group wants to put the rush act on the president. He's been in office for only 9 months and has done more in 9 months than any president I can recall; in spite of the mess the previous administration left him with. Everybody wants campaign promises fulfilled right now!! Get in line.

    October 10, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  24. 25 yrs of service

    That is commendable that he is taking the time to personally address those who had based their votes on certain expectations they had of him.
    His next address needs to be to the over 2 million people who have lost their jobs since the beginning of the year. These Americans don't know where the next meal or house payment will come from. Less time should be spent traveling the world and trying to save face with our enemies who are directly involved with or at least sponsoring the killing of our brave American servicemen and women.
    Which leads to the next audience to be addressed: military servicemen at the actual bases. How do you look these brave young people in the eye and tell them the value of attempting diplomacy with Muslim nations who support the killing of the people he sends into harm's way.
    Sadly, neither appear on the White House radar screen. Despite the trillions of dollars added to the deficit, despite the 2 million people who have lost their jobs in this country, despite the hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women who have been deployed to battle islamic terrorists, it seems more important to impress Europe and Muslim nations.
    Need to spend more time standing up for us Americans and worrying more about our welfare, rather than perceptions from Europe and Muslim nations.

    October 10, 2009 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  25. No Hillary = No Obama

    Obama is a closet homophobic thrust into the gay arena due to political pressure – can't you just see it – his speech is forced, not spontaneous.

    October 10, 2009 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
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