Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama pledges (again) to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ but offers no timetable

Below are just some of the mainstream media headlines about Obama's HRC speech. Watch video here.

Obama pledges (again) to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ but offers no timetable

New York Times reports:
WASHINGTON — President Obama on Saturday renewed his vow to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military, but failed to offer a timetable for doing so — an omission likely to inflame critics who say he is not fighting aggressively enough for gay rights.

“I will end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ ” Mr. Obama told an audience of nearly 3,000 people at a fund-raising dinner for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay advocacy group. “That is my commitment to you.”

The president’s emphatic declaration, on the eve of a major gay rights rally here, brought a huge roar from the crowd at the star-studded black-tie dinner, where tickets cost as much as $1,000 and entertainment was provided by the singer Lady Gaga and the cast of the new Fox comedy “Glee.” But outside the room, the president’s words met with a chillier reception.

Bil Browning, a blogger for Bilerico Project, a Web site aimed at a gay audience, said moments after the speech ended that the site was flooded with critical comments by people who said they had heard nothing new. “I could have watched one of his old campaign speeches and heard the same thing,” one wrote.

Even inside the room, reaction was mixed. Terry Penrod, a real estate agent from Columbus, Ohio, said some gay rights advocates were being impatient with the president, while Raj Malthotra, 29, a management consultant from Washington, said he thought the speech was a rehash of Mr. Obama’s past promises. “For him, it’s buy more time until he needs our votes again,” Mr. Malthotra said.

Mr. Obama campaigned as a “fierce advocate” of equal rights for gays, he said, and he used Saturday’s speech to lay out his vision of the day when, as he said, “we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women are just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman,” and when “no one has to be afraid to be gay in America.”

Yet the president’s relationship with the gay community has been a conflicted one. He does not support gay marriage — as a matter of Christian principle, he has said — and he got off to a bad start with the gay community when he invited the Rev. Rick Warren, who opposes same-sex unions, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. READ MORE

Obama reaffirms will end 'don't ask, don't tell'

AP reports:
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama reaffirmed his campaign pledge to end the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military in a speech Saturday, but offered no timetable or specifics for acting on that longstanding promise. "I appreciate that many of you don't believe progress has come fast enough," Obama said. "Do not doubt the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach."

Some advocates said they already have heard Obama's promises — they just want to hear a timeline. Cleve Jones, a pioneer activist and creator of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, said Obama delivered a brilliant speech, but added "it lacked the answer to our most pressing question, which is when."

"He repeated his promises that he's made to us before, but he did not indicate when he would accomplish these goals and we've been waiting for a while now, said Jones, an organizer of of a major gay-rights rally expected to draw thousands of gay and lesbian activists to the National Mall on Sunday.

"I'm here with a simple message: I'm here with you in that fight," Obama said. Obama also pledged during the campaign to work for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. But lawyers in his administration defended the law in a court brief. White House aides said they were only doing their jobs to back a law that was already on the books.

The gay community is somewhat split as to whether Obama should be expected to produce results right away.

The Human Rights Campaign, which invited Obama to speak at its dinner Saturday night, holds out hope of seeing more action. "We have never had a stronger ally in the White House. Never," Joe Solmonese, the group's president, said at the dinner before Obama spoke. In an interview, he said the Obama administration has been working with the group on a range of issues "on an almost weekly and sometimes daily basis."

Obama to end military gay policy

BBC reports:
Mr Obama was speaking to America's largest gay group - the Human Rights Campaign - in Washington. Mr Obama asked the audience to trust his administration. "I appreciate that many of you don't believe progress has come fast enough. Do not doubt the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach," he said. One issue causing disquiet among the US gay community is the issue of gay marriage, the BBC's Rajesh Mirchandani in Los Angeles says. Mr Obama has been criticised for not delivering on his promise to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which limits how local and federal bodies can recognise gay partnerships and determine benefits. In his speech, Mr Obama did call on Congress to repeal the act and he also called for a law that would extend benefits to domestic partners. READ MORE