White House Meeting Heats Up



Broaddus added that she really believed certain administration officials were pushing the president to change his position.

“My sense of the marriage issue is that there are many people in the administration who would like to see the president come out for marriage equality and they are conveying that, but it’s just not where he is at the moment,” she said.

Although none of the information discussed was entirely new, Broaddus said it was an important educational opportunity about information she wished were available to more people.

“We did ask, ‘Why isn’t the administration doing more to let people know about the things we’re learning in our briefing today?’” she said. “They acknowledged that they hadn’t done a good job of getting that out.”

But by and large, Broaddus and Kenny walked away feeling like the government is doing a lot of under-the-radar work on behalf of the community.

“The point is, there’s a lot going on in the way the government is approaching LGBT people that’s very different and that will have a long-term impact,” said Broaddus. “It’s changing the conversation in government throughout all levels of government.”

Kenny noted that he got the sense they were literally going through the federal government code “line by line” to see what could be addressed.

Notes from the August 6 meeting:

Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act
Tina Tchen, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, opened the gathering by asserting that the administration fully expects the provisions of the Defense Authorization Bill ending the Pentagon's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy to win congressional approval by year's end. The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed the legislation and the U.S. Senate will soon consider the bill.

Tchen said that the administration was prioritizing DADT over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) because it could attach DADT to other legislation, making it much easier to move through Congress. By contrast, ENDA — which would outlaw employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression — is stand-alone legislation that faces more congressional hurdles. In the current political climate, securing a firm commitment of 60 Senate votes to support ENDA is proving far more difficult than the administration anticipated. These obstacles have not, Tchen claimed, diminished President Obama's support for the legislation.

Acknowledging that some LGBT advocates are quite frustrated with the president's progress on equality issues, Tchen urged statewide leaders to let the White House know when their constituents are displeased.

"When you are frustrated, "she stated, "you should speak out and hold our feet to the fire."