by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) welcomed President Obama to its 15th Annual National Dinner, the largest HRC National Dinner to date, drawing more than 3,000 people to the Washington Convention Center on Oct. 1.
As usual, Obama was a slick talker, garnering several extended moments of applause and making it clear that his administration would continue to fight for LGBT equality. This speech, not unlike the one at his first HRC National Dinner in 2009, was full of promise.
Obama joked about not speaking too long because he couldn't compete with Cyndi Lauper (who was in the audience) and humorously called Lady Gaga the LGBT community's 'leader.' In addition, the president thanked HRC President Joe Solmonese for all the work he's done as head of the large organization.
'What he has accomplished at the helm of this organization has been remarkable,' said Obama, 'and I want to thank all of you for the support that you've shown this organization and for your commitment to a simple idea: Every single American - Gay, straight, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender - every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our society.'
Obama recognized that, although there have been major advances in LGBT equality under his watch, there is a still a 'long way to go in that struggle.'
'I don't have to tell you how many are still denied their basic rights -- Americans who are still made to feel like second-class citizens, who have to live a lie to keep their jobs, or who are afraid to walk the street, or down the hall at school,' he said. 'Many of you have devoted your lives to the cause of equality. So you know what we have to do; we've got more work ahead of us.'
Obama appropriately spoke of the struggle to repeal DADT - a momentous win for the LGBT community and the president. 'Many questioned whether we'd succeed in repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' And, yes, it took two years to get the repeal through Congress,' he said. 'We had to hold a coalition together. We had to keep up the pressure. We took some flak along the way. But with the help of HRC, we got it done. And 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is history. And all over the world, there are men and women serving this country just as they always have -- with honor and courage and discipline and valor. We got it done. All around the world, you've got Gays and Lesbians who are serving, and the only difference is now they can put up a family photo. No one has to live a lie to serve the country they love.'
Stopping short of endorsing same-sex marriage, Obama vowed, once again, to get rid of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). 'I vowed to keep up the fight against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. There's a bill to repeal this discriminatory law in Congress, and I want to see that passed,' he said. 'But until we reach that day, my administration is no longer defending DOMA in the courts. I believe the law runs counter to the Constitution, and it's time for it to end once and for all. It should join 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in the history books.'
Before asking the audience to help him get the economy back on track, Obama touched on LGBT youth. '&We also have to keep sending a message to every young person in this country who might feel alone or afraid because they're Gay or Transgender - who may be getting picked on or pushed around because they're different,' he said. 'We've got to make sure they know that there are adults they can talk to; that they are never alone; that there is a whole world waiting for them filled with possibility. That's why we held a summit at the White House on bullying. That's why we're going to continue to focus on this issue.'
'This isn't just 'kids being kids.' It's wrong. It's destructive. It's never acceptable,' he continued. 'And I want all those kids to know that the President and the First Lady are standing right by them every inch of the way. I want them to know that we love them and care about them, and they're not by themselves. That's what I want them to know.'
Whether you support Obama or not, or think he's not done enough for the Gay community, he's pledged once again to continue fighting for LGBT equality. With an election year looming, Obama - due mainly to the economy - has a tough campaign ahead for reelection. Will the Gays turn out the vote for Obama? Only time will tell.
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