Obama’s Warm LGBT Reception

Despite skepticism among the gay community and a wary sense that President Obama might not have the courage to deliver on his campaign promises, he got a pretty good reception from LGBT attendees at his Pride Month reception at the White House Monday.

“We lie down in our shame, and our confusionStrongs 3639: klimmah, kel-im-maw´; from 3637; disgrace:—confusion, dishonour, reproach, shame. covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.
—Jeremiah 3:25

Please read Leviticus 18:22-30“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion. Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you: (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;) That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you. For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people. Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God.” —Leviticus 18:22-30 to see the results of this lifestyle on a progressively decaying society, as it turns from it’s creator.

Obama drew early and enthusiastic applause from the crowd of 250-300 LGBT families, volunteers, community leaders, federal employees, state and local lawmakers, and heads of LGBT lobbying/activist organizations gathered in the East Room as he called out greetings to openly gay appointees and gay rights activists, then delivered remarks for about 20 minutes. (Hear audio of Obama’s remarks here.)

“Welcome to your White House,” he said to the crowd as he addressed it.

As noted elsewhere, Obama has yet to earn the trust of many in the gay political community. His administration hasn’t prioritized a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in Congress; its Justice Department defended the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Clinton-signed bill that defines marriage as between a man and a woman–an opinion that’s been called insulting to the gay community. He doesn’t believe in gay marriage. The message gays have been gleaning from the administration thusfar is: be patient.

Obama confronted that sentiment in his remarks.

“Now I know that many in this room don’t believe that progress has come fast enough, and I understand that. It’s not for me to tell you to be paitent any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African Americans who were petitioning for equal rights a half century ago,” Obama said.

“But I say this: we have made progress, and we will make more. And I want you to know that I expect and hope to be judged not by words, not by promises I’ve made, but by the promises that my administration keeps,” he said, drawing applause.

“We’ve been in office six months now. I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys’ll have pretty good feelings about the Obama adminsitration,” the president said.

He was certainly right about some of that: gay leaders don’t think change has come quickly enough, and every day that goes by without advancements of gay rights they see as an affront.

Obama then got into some points on the gay rights agenda, making promises or signaling progress on each item. He touted the extension of benefits to LGBT partners and families of federal employees and the advancement of hate crimes legislation through the House.

He sought to justify the Justice Dept.’s defense of DOMA: “We have a duty to uphold existing law, but I believe we must do so in a way that does not exascerbate old divides, and fulfilling this duty and upholding the law in no way lessens my commitment to reversing this law,” he said, later calling again on Congress to reverse it.

He credited the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for the lack of progress on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: “Someday, I’m confident, we’ll look back at this transition and ask why it generated such angst. But as commander in chief, in a time of war, I do have a responsibility to see that this change is administered in a practical way and a way that takes over the long term,” Obama said, giving a nod to the continued dismissals of openly gay servicemen and women and the “deep disappointment” they’ve caused those who’ve been dismissed.

All of the policy talk got less applause than the opening; but it got mild, and sometimes raucus (on the hate crimes bill), applause nonetheless.

As one gay rights leader noted this morning, people are generally excited to go to the White House, and despite the skepticism, attendees would be in a good mood regardless of the content of the event, though they’d be hoping to feel good about things as they left.

It’s also worth pointing out that not all 250-300 of those in attendance were the hard-nosed lobbyist/presidents of gay rights lobbying groups, and I suspect many of them don’t have the acerbic political instincts that go with that territory.

So that may have had something to do with the warm reception Obama got.

But as Obama closed, praising the Stonewall protesters who 40 years ago gave birth to the gay rights movement in America–two of whom were in attendance in the East Room–Obama seemed to accrue historical cred by honoring that movement in the White House, on its anniversary–a significant historical fact in itself, and one that was not lost on those in attendance. Raucus applause ensued, with one person yelling, “We love you!”

Obama’s speech today didn’t signify any major policy development or major action; it didn’t bump Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or DOMA higher on his administration’s legizlative agenda, which is what gay activists want. But he paid tribute to the history of the LGBT movement, and the crowd was most pleased. And he didn’t say “be patient”–even though he sort of did.

  1. Linda, 29 June, 2009

    He woos everyone except christians . . .

  2. Ernest Gregoire, 30 June, 2009

    You’re right Linda.

    It will take only one big event to bring the entire country under marshal law, either real or contrived. Its coming, I can smell it!

  3. becca, 30 June, 2009

    Amen Ernest, Amen! The whole issue of comparing the African-American civil rights movement to the gays is so entirely stupid that I can’t believe people give it a place. I know many African-Americans who are angered by such a comparison. Being a sodomite is a choice, being black is not (no offense to the late MJ).

  4. Shannon, 30 June, 2009

    Well this should not be a shock to anyone. This man should have never been put into office because believe you me, it is about to get a lot tougher for christians. However, I do not fear for the Lord my GOD is with me. We need christians who are gonna stand up for what they believe in not sit back and let evil take over. Let us not forget what the word of GOD says, “He that is within us is greater than he that is in the world.”

  5. sanford, 02 July, 2009

    WWJD?

  6. becca, 08 July, 2009

    Obama and these that he “warmly” welcomes are headed for a very “warm” eternity. We must remember to reach out to the LGBT community with the Gospel!

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