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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 23, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 38
President Obama to deliver keynote address at HRC National Dinner
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President Obama to deliver keynote address at HRC National Dinner

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization, announced September 21, that U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver the keynote address at the organization's 15th annual National Dinner, to be held October 1 in Washington, D.C.

'We are honored to share this night with President Obama, who has a tremendous record of accomplishment for LGBT people,' said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. 'On the heels of the end to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' we look forward to celebrating our victories and redoubling our efforts for the fights that remain ahead.'

The event, which is expected to draw nearly 3,000 attendees, will be at the Washington Convention Center.

President Obama previously addressed the dinner in 2009. He is the second sitting president to attend such an event - Bill Clinton was the first.

In 2009 Obama told National Dinner attendees, 'I've called on Congress to repeal the so-called DOMA,' and 'I will end 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' That is my commitment to you.'

Two years later, DOMA is still a federal law, but DADT was officially repealed September 20, allowing openly Gay military service in the U.S. armed forces.

'My expectation is that when you look back on these years, you will see a time in which we put a stop to discrimination against Gays and Lesbians - whether in the office or on the battlefield,' Obama said at the 2009 dinner. 'You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman. You will see a nation that's valuing and cherishing these families as we build a more perfect union - a union in which Gay Americans are an important part. I am committed to these goals. And my administration will continue fighting to achieve them.'

As President Obama enters an election year, there is no doubt that he is looking toward minority groups for votes - the LGBT community included. Still, the fact that the president recognizes the importance of speaking at the National Dinner is a good sign. In the years since he first took office, the LGBT equality movement has advanced. But there are still some battles to fight (DOMA, a Trans-inclusive ENDA, etc.) and we, as a community, would be hard-pressed to further our rights with Michele Bachmann or Mitt Romney in office.

Last month, Solmonese announced that he would not renew his contract in March 2012. For some, this is good news. HRC, under Solmonese's leadership, was criticized for having an extremely cozy relationship with the Obama White House - often being criticized as too reluctant to 'make waves' with the administration and for giving Obama a free pass on LGBT issues. Grassroots equality activists have complained about HRC for years, saying that their lobbying efforts and the millions of dollars spent on them have been a waste.

Whether you love it or hate it, the truth remains: HRC does have influence, as evidenced by the president's upcoming keynote speech at the 2011 HRC National Dinner.

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