Appearing before a very welcoming crowd at the Human Rights Campaign's annual dinner in Washington DC, President Barack Obama delivered an emotional speech and reiterated his commitment to LGBT rights. No specifics to enact his campaign promises, though, but the President did use his strongest language yet on the military's failed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
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"I will end 'Dont Ask, Don't Tell,''' Obama said to thunderous applause and a standing ovation from the crowd of about 3,000. "We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve the country. We should be celebrating their willingness to step forward and show such courage especially when we are fighting two wars."
The most thunderous applause was for his mention of the Matthew Shepard Act. "I promised Judy Shepard we would pass an inclusive hate crimes bill. And we're going to do it!" he said admitting it's taken "too long." The measure passed the House on Thursday and is expected to pass the Senate next week.
As anticipated, the President did not mention the two ballot measures that would rollback rights granted to LGBTs on either coast: Question 1 in Maine and Referendum 71 in Washington. Obama offered broader promises to oppose the "divisiveness" of opponents of equality.
Obama also acknowledged that many LGBTs "don't believe progress has come fast enough" and added, "Friends should be able to be honest with one another", reminding supporters to keep him and the Congress accountable. Oh and then there was that fabulous opening bouquet to the gays: "It is a privilege to be here tonight to open for Lady Gaga."
No specifics, no call for legislation, and no mention of the major LGBT issues on the November ballot. Bur for the President and Nobel Peace Prize winner to keynote HRC in his first year of office .... that's progress. Best moment? Obama received a massive ovation for saying, "You will see a time when our country sees relationship between two men or two women as just as admirable as relationships between a man and woman."
Curious to hear you thoughts ...
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