Tuesday, June 30, 2009

LGBT Leaders Meet Obama at White House for Stonewall 40

On Monday President Obama, in full damage control mode, hosted a group of LGBT leaders at the White House to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The president was greeted with a standing ovation and shouts of "I love you!"

Has the secret service come up with some new amnesia-inducing laughing gas? Three days ago these so-called leaders were out for blood, still reeling from the Obama Justice Department's insulting brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in federal court, in which they compared homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality. Several prominent LGBT rights activists, organizations and politicians boycotted a democratic fundraiser last week in protest of the DOMA brief.

Just days ago the administration ignored a letter signed by 77 congressional democrats calling for a moratorium on military discharges under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) until the policy could be legislatively ended. Since Inauguration Day, over 260 gay and lesbian military personnel have been discharged under the homophobic policy.

On Tuesday, Lt. Dan Choi, a decorated Arabic linguist, faced a military tribunal which recommended his discharge for coming out on the Rachel Maddow show, at a time when his skills are needed more than ever.

Among those in attendance were Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, Andrew Barnett, executive director of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League, Jarrett Barrios, incoming president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Kate Kendell, executive director of the California-based National Center for Lesbian Rights and Judy Shepard, mother of slain gay student Matthew Shepard and founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

Also present was LGBT rights pioneer Frank Kameny, co-founder of the nation's first gay rights organization, The Mettachine Society, who was fired from his government job in the 1950's for being gay and fought it all the way to the Supreme Court. Obama recognized Mettachine as the first gay rights group to picket the White House in 1965.

The president recited the history of the American gay rights movement, not so much for those in the room, who know it all too well, but to show us that he knows it too. I wonder which documentary he downloaded from Netflix.

He talked about his commitment to pass the Employee Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) and the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. He reminded his audience about the same-sex partner benefits he granted State Department and Foreign Service workers and reaffirmed his commitment to overturning DOMA and DADT.

In short, Obama pressed all the right buttons and every queen in the room rolled over and threw their legs up to Jesus.

In the most notable remark of the event, the president said, "We've been in office six months now. I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration."

We'll see.

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