President Barack Obama addressed the Human Rights Campaign last night at the gay rights organization’s National Dinner in Washington, D.C. and offered his “unwavering” commitment to the gay community.
The president promised to sign the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, to pass an employee non-discrimination bill, a reinvigorated approach to HIV/AIDS, and to finally put an end to the discriminatory military rule of “don’t ask, don’t tell” regarding gay soldiers.
“We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve this country,” he said. “I’m working with the Pentagon, its leadership and the members of the House and Senate on ending this policy, legislation that has been introduced in the House to make this happen, I will end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ That’s my commitment to you.”
The president said he backed the rights of gay couples, saying they should have the “same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country.” He said he has urged Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and to pass the Domestic Partners Benefit and Obligations Act.
While Obama committed to end DADT and DOMA, he offered no timeline or plan of action. I hope that these platitudes are more than words to the president, and that he truly believes that “all of us are equal,” and that together we can achieve that. It was certainly inspiring to hear the president say, in front of an audience of 2,000 major gay donors and countless television and online viewers, that he fully supports the equal rights of gay Americans. That is a huge step in the right direction.
Now, he conveniently forgot to say when he would help put an end to government-sanctioned discrimination. “I support the president, but I’m disappointed,” said Harvey Milk’s protege, Cleve Jones, before the big speech. I think Jones spoke for a lot of people in the gay community. After voting for Obama, the gay community expected more. Instead, we’ve seen the administration drag its feet. Is Obama’s speech a promise of timely action on gay issues?
It sounds like for the first time in history we have a president of the United States that isn’t afraid to embrace the gay community. While I’m incredibly disappointed in the snail’s pace at which we’re currently moving, I don’t want to waste this moment by bickering and fighting. The time for action is now. Let’s hold him to his words. Let’s make it happen.