Obama: 'I've Met My Commitments'
June 29 2011 10:20 PM ET
Though he notably promised advocates that “don’t ask, don’t tell” would be history when its repeal is certified “in weeks, not months,” President Barack Obama in his Wednesday speech celebrating LGBT Pride Month wavered little from administration messaging in recent days: that commitments have been kept and crucial gains made in just a few short years.
In a news conference earlier today, the president told The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler that he wasn’t “going to make news” today on his marriage equality stance following the landmark marriage legislation in New York, and told Chuck Todd of NBC News that “each state is going to be different and each community is going to be different” when it comes to deciding whether to permit gay marriage. (Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson said in response to Obama’s position: “The President is wrong — historically, constitutionally, politically, and morally — when he suggests that marriage is a matter solely for the states. States issue marriage licenses, but must do so under the Constitution's guarantees of freedom and equal protection.”)
Several hours later, President Obama appeared in the East Room of the White House confident of both his stance and record. “I’ve met my commitments to the LGBT community,” he told the crowd. “I have delivered on what I promised. Now, that doesn’t mean our work is done. There are going to be times where you’re still frustrated with me. I know there are going to be times where you’re still frustrated at the pace of change. I understand that. I know I can count on you to let me know. This is not a shy group.”
The president named specific individuals with whom he’s met during his tenure in enumerating his gay rights accomplishments: Judy Shepard (in passing hate crimes legislation), former U.S. army captain and West Point grad Sue Fulton (on DADT repeal), and Janice Langbehn, who in 2007 was kept from her dying partner’s side in a Miami, Fla. hospital along with their children. Langbehn inspired a presidential memorandum ordering hospitals that receive federal funds to respect the visitation rights of LGBT patients and their families.
Of “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal and pending certification, Obama said, “It took two years through Congress — working with Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates and the Pentagon. We had to hold together a fragile coalition. We had to keep up the pressure. But the bottom line is we got it done. And in a matter of weeks, not months, I expect to certify the change in policy — and we will end [DADT] once and for all.”
Obama’s speech, lasting about nine minutes, was attended by national and regional guests including L.A. Episcopal bishop Mary Glasspool, Courage Campaign chair Rick Jacobs, and “It Gets Better” project creator Dan Savage, who attended with husband Terry Miller.
Wearing an “Evolve Already” button referencing Obama’s marriage position, Savage remarked of the event, “I'm not one of the gay activists furious at the president because he's not out on the furthest limb” on gay rights issues, but “We need to keep the pressure on and take 'yes' for an answer."
“We want him to come out for marriage equality, acknowledge his process, acknowledge the predicament he’s in … and the president is, I think, on his way there,” Savage said. “Or on his way back there.”
Video of the remarks, which were not webcast live on Whitehouse.gov, are available below.