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

Obama to address major gay rights group

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/10/art.bomolgbt1010.gi.jpg caption="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)

    maybe Obama you should support our service personnel like you support the gays and your private agenda.

    Obama LIES about JOBS

    October 10, 2009 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |

    Obama maybe people DONT WANT TO SERVE with gays.

    Let the Majority speak not the minority

    October 10, 2009 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  3. Eva Garcia

    All i have to say is that it seems to me as if President Obama is setting many things up as far as gay marriage, the war in iraq, the economy ect. Give the man some credit its very difficult to do things when many republicans and some democrats are just looking for what they get out of passing the bills on healthcare ect. Do what the people want you to do Congress and stop all the procrastination!!!!!!!

    October 10, 2009 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  4. Dan, TX

    Obama is too conservative for some. But he is doing an excellent job of getting all points of view discussed.

    October 10, 2009 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  5. Willy Brown

    Bowing down to the perverts.

    October 10, 2009 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
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