Obama Gay Rights: White House Hosts Pride Reception and Urges Passage of Anti-Discrimination Bill
The White House hosted a Pride reception on Thursday, inviting hundreds of LGBT activists and their allies to join the president in pushing for future legislation that will prevent discrimination against LGBT individuals in the U.S.
The event began with a speech by two young girls who had written a letter to President Obama earlier in the year, asking him to legalize gay marriage so their two mothers could be together legally. They introduced the president, who took the stand with Biden in a supportive role on the sidelines. Obama was in rare form, sparkling with charm and throwing in impromptu jokes, reminiscent of an Obama at the beginning of his political career rather than the one who has been bombarded with scandals for the past few weeks.
Obama began by thanking a lot of people for their efforts towards the LGBT cause, including Vice President Joe Biden and path-breakers like newly-instated Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro, the first openly gay Hispanic judge in U.S. history. He followed that with anecdotes about his encounters with average citizens across the U.S. In particular, he spoke about one boy, Madison, who has been waiting for his two mothers to have the chance to get married. Directing his response at Madison, Obama stated, "I don't think we're going to have to wait that long."
Obama then took part of the evening to cite his own administration's numerous accomplishments in advocating for LGBT individuals, including but not limited to ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell, expanding the Violence Against Women Act to include LGBT persons, and releasing the first national HIV/AIDS strategy. He also agreed that there is still much work to be done.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which is currently in the Senate, would outlaw anti-LGBT discrimination (still legal in 34 states) if passed, and activist groups have hoped that Obama would be more outspoken in favor of the bill. In particular, many groups have asked Obama to pass an executive order to that effect, which would serve mostly as a symbolic show of support. Though he didn't hint at passing any order, Obama did use his speech to urge Congress to push the bill forward. Unfortunately, with a massive immigration bill coming up for debate, it's doubtful that the ENDA will get priority.
Still, this massive reception and Obama's speech is a clear show of support, and the most inspiring line of the evening was one that Obama reused from his inauguration speech a few months ago. "If we are truly created equal," Obama stated, "then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."
See the full speech (and Obama at his best) below: