US President Barack Obama on Monday urged gay and lesbian activists to judge him on results, following some complaints that he has been slow to honor promises to fight for equal rights.
“We seek an America in which no one feels the pain of discrimination based on who you are or who you love,” Obama told up to 300 lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans-gender activists at a White House reception.
“I know that many in this room don’t believe that progress has come fast enough, and I understand that,” Obama said, his remarks drawing cheers and shouts of “Thank you Mr President” at the event, celebrating Gay Pride month.
“It’s not for me to tell you to be patient anymore 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,” Obama said, less than two weeks after signing a presidential memorandum extending partial federal benefits to same-sex partners of US government workers.
“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, adding that by the end of his mandate in 2013, he believed the community would be happy with his administration.
Some gay and lesbian rights groups have complained about what they see as sluggish progress towards implementing campaign promises.
The White House has yet to follow through on a promise to end the ban on gays serving openly in the US military — a hugely controversial issue.
Obama made clear at the event that he had asked the Pentagon and Congress to work out how best to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy — which would require a change in US law.
“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.
Gay groups also recently slammed the Obama Justice Department for backing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denies federal benefits to same-sex married couples.
In his White House event, the president made clear he had called on Congress to overturn the law.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked at his daily briefing whether the president felt under pressure to “mollify” gay Democratic supporters.
“That’s not the way the president looks at important issues,” Gibbs said.
“We didn’t play a lot of interest group-based politics in the presidential race. The president makes those decisions… based on his values.”