From Sunlen Miller:
Celebrating LGBT pride month at the White House this evening, President Obama declared that the nation has never been closer to ending the “discriminatory policy” of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and promised to keep working until the bill is signed into law.
“We have never been closer to ending this discriminatory policy. And I’m going to keep on fighting until that bill is on my desk and I can sign it,” Obama said in the East Room this evening. “That is a promise I made as a candidate. It is a promise that I reiterated as president. It’s one that this administration is going to keep.”
In remarks coming at a time when many in the LGBT community have been frustrated by the slow pace of reform, the president said the “only way to lock this in” is by getting the needed votes in Congress is to work with the Pentagon.
“This repeal is authored so that the Pentagon can complete its review of the policy -- which is critical, by the way, not only to passage, but it’s also critical to making sure that the change is accepted and implemented effectively," he said. "In the Senate, the Armed Services Committee has approved repeal for the first time, and the full body is poised to vote soon. “
The president ticked though accomplishments he’s made that have benefited the LGBT community, including the announcement by the Labor Department today.
“The Department of Labor made clear that under the Family and Medical Leave Act, same-sex couples -- as well as others raising children -- are to be treated like the caretakers that they are.”
Mr. Obama noted that he pledged that he would not push aside matters of basic inequality when he took the presidency, and said that while there have been some progress there’s still more work left undone.
“We’ve got a lot of hard work that we still have to do, but we can already point to extraordinary progress that we’ve made over the past year on behalf of Americans who are gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender,” he said.
Singling out some of the “openly gay” members of Congress in the room -- Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis, the president joked that they are also “openly terrific.”
The audience of 300 included LGBT state and local leaders and other LGBT community members, including LGBT families, local social service organization leaders from across the country and youth. Country singer Chely Wright, who recently announced that she is a lesbian, and Mississippi high school student Constance McMillen, who was denied bringing her girlfriend to prom earlier this year, were also in attendance.
“The fact that we’ve got activists here is important because it’s a reminder that change never comes -- or at least never begins in Washington. It begins with acts of compassion -- and sometimes defiance -- across America,” Obama said to the crowd.
-- Sunlen Miller