First lady Michelle Obama experienced a rare face-to-face encounter with a protester late Tuesday – approaching the activist and threatening to leave a fundraiser if the person did not stop interrupting her speech.
Obama was addressing a Democratic Party fundraiser in a private Kalorama home in Northwest Washington when Ellen Sturtz, 56, a lesbian activist, interrupted her remarks to demand that President Obama sign an anti-discrimination executive order.
Obama showed her displeasure – pausing to confront Sturtz eye to eye, according to witnesses.
“One of the things that I don’t do well is this,” she said to applause from most of the guests, according to a White House transcript. “Do you understand?”
A pool report from a reporter in the room said Obama “left the lectern and moved over to the protester.” The pool report quoted Obama as saying: “Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have one choice.”
Obama’s suggestion that she would leave was not included in the official White House transcript.
The audience responded by asking Obama to remain, according to the pool report, which quoted a woman nearby telling Sturtz, “You need to go.”
Sturtz was escorted out of the room. She said in an interview later she was stunned by Obama’s response.
“She came right down in my face,” Sturtz said. “I was taken aback.”
Sturtz said she told Obama she was happy to take the microphone to plead her case, which, Sturtz said, appeared to fluster the first lady.
“I said I want your husband to sign the executive order,” Sturtz said. “Her husband could sign this order tonight and protect 22 percent of the work force in this country.”
Sturtz said she paid $500 to attend the fundraiser, part of a protest cooked up by the gay rights group GetEqual, which gained notice in Obama’s first term for hectoring him during speeches and demanding more action on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. Sturtz, who gave $5,000 to the Democratic Party and Obama’s campaign in 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, said she was devoting herself to full-time activism now pressing the White House on the employment discrimination issue.
The proposed executive order that prompted Sturtz’s outburst would prohibit federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
LGBT activists, many of whom hailed Obama for his vocal support for same-sex marriage rights in the months leading up to his reelection in 2012, have been increasingly dismayed that the White House has not yet acted on the proposed order.
The issue has been building for years, pushed by gay rights advocates who argue that more than 20 percent of the U.S. workforce is employed by federal contractors. Advocates for the executive order have attempted to exert more quiet pressure, highlighting cases of discrimination by some firms and connecting workers to administration officials to make personal appeals.
White House officials have said they back legislation to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but have declined to say whether the executive order is pending.
Metro Weekly, a gay newspaper, reported in 2012 that, as a presidential candidate in 2008, then-Sen. Obama had pledged to a Houston LGBT group that he would support a “formal written policy” of non-discrimination.
from The Washington Post
Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’
First lady Michelle Obama experienced a rare face-to-face encounter with a protester late Tuesday – approaching the activist and threatening to leave a fundraiser if the person did not stop interrupting her speech.
WASHINGTON – President Obama on Monday became the first president to use the word “gay” as a reference to sexual orientation in an inaugural address, declaring the movement for equality to be part of the pantheon of America’s great civil rights struggles.
“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” the president said. “For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.”
Obama also made another reference in the speech to gay equality. He placed the 1969 riot protesting a police raid on a Greenwich Village gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, as a signature event in the civil rights movement — and ranked it with historical turning points in the battles for women’s and racial equality.
“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall,” Obama said.
Seneca Falls referred to an 1848 convention of female activists in an Upstate New York hamlet that produced one of the first declarations of the then-radical proposition that women should be equal to men.
The March 7, 1965 Selma, Ala., march was organized to advocate for African American voting rights and to protest the killing of a young black man by a state trooper. It would become known as Bloody Sunday for the violence that was inflicted on marchers by police at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, stirring national outrage.
By mentioning Stonewall with Seneca Falls and Selma, “it closely associates it with other freedom struggles that have great legitimacy,” said John D’Emilio, a University of Illinois at Chicago professor who has written extensively about Stonewall. “Think of it: Here is a group of people who in the president’s lifetime had been reviled.”
Gay rights advocates were jubilant.
Obama “made history today by connecting the lives of committed and loving lesbian and gay couples fighting for marriage equality to this nation’s proud tradition of equal rights for all,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a leading organization advocating on behalf of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.
In San Francisco, the epicenter of gay activism, Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, was watching the inaugural address with a diverse group of about 70 friends.
“Everyone was moved and felt this very strong sense of the privilege of watching amazing history being made,” she said in an interview. “We all had this sense of the privilege it is to be witnesses to a liberation moment.”
Adding to the resonance of Obama’s words was the fact that his second inauguration occurred on the national holiday celebrating the birth of the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The president was sworn in using Bibles that had belonged to King and Abraham Lincoln.
The timing of his comments was also significant. In March, the Supreme Court will take up two major cases involving state and federal efforts to preserve the traditional definition of marriage as limited to heterosexual couples. The court was seated nearby as Obama delivered his address.
The moment also marked the continuation of a progression in Obama’s own views and the intensity of his advocacy of gay rights.
When he was elected in 2008, he was opposed to same-sex marriage. Two years later, he said his position on the issue was “constantly evolving.” And in May, he became the first U.S. president to embrace the concept that same-sex couples should be allowed to wed.
In 2011, he lifted the ban on gays serving openly in the military. His administration has also refused to defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defines marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman.
Early in his administration, some gay rights advocates expressed frustration at what they saw as tepid support for their agenda. Columnist Andrew Sullivan observed acidly that the president had been seized by the “fierce urgency of whenever” — a jab mocking Obama’s frequent invocation of a favorite King quote that described the “fierce urgency of now.”
But after Obama’s turnaround on gay marriage last year, Sullivan wrote a Newsweek cover story that depicted the president with a rainbow-hued halo. It was headlined: “The First Gay President.”
Kendell said Obama has proved to be “an ally of the first order, and the sort of ally we have never had in the White House, and who we need if we are going to finish the job.”
“For any civil rights movement to succeed,” she added, “you need individuals who have access to power and who are willing to risk their power and their access and their political capital for you.”
from The Washington Post
President Barack Obama threw his support behind ballot measures in Maine, Maryland and Washington state that would legalize same-sex marriage.
Though the president first voiced his general approval for gay marriage in May, he had not previously offered specific endorsements of the three measures.
In each case, the endorsements were issued through the state branches of Obama’s re-election campaign.
“While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the president believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect,” said Paul Bell, the campaign’s press secretary in Washington state.
“Washington’s same-sex marriage law would treat all Washington couples equally, and that is why the president supports a vote to approve Referendum 74,” Bell said.
In Maine, gay-rights supporters put the measure on this year’s ballot in hopes of reversing the results of a 2009 referendum in which voters rejected a same-sex marriage law passed by the legislature.
In Maryland and Washington, gay-marriage laws were passed by lawmakers and signed by the governors earlier this year, but opponents collected enough signatures to hold referendums on whether the laws should be upheld or rejected.
Ed Murray, an openly gay state senator in Washington who has been fighting for years to legalize gay marriage, expressed gratitude to Obama.
“When I first began fighting in the legislature for marriage equality … I would never have dared to dream that a president of the United States would one day step forward at this crucial moment, in the middle of his own close re-election campaign, to offer his support for our efforts,” Murray said. “But that is exactly what President Obama has done, and it is an example of his courage and leadership.”
Murray said his hope was to soon be able to wed his partner of 21 years, and he thanked Obama for “bringing that dream a little closer to reality.”
Chip White of Preserve Marriage Washington, which opposes the gay-marriage law, said he was unsurprised by Obama’s action.
“Until May of this year, the president’s position was that marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” White said. “No one called him a bigot or said he was unfair for holding that position. And Washingtonians who believe in the traditional definition of marriage as one man and one woman are not bigots.”
If any of the measures are approved, it would be the first time that a state legalized same-sex marriage through a popular vote. Thus far, all 32 states voting on gay marriage have rebuffed it, while the six states that have legalized it did so through legislation or court orders.
In all three states voting on the issue on Nov. 6, the outcome is expected to be close, though the polls up to now have given an edge to gay-marriage supporters.
from The Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – The Democratic National Convention is a watershed event for America’s gay rights movement, which never before has been embraced so warmly by a major political party.
There’s a platform endorsing same-sex marriage, a roster of speakers that includes three gay members of Congress, and a record number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender delegates hailing from all 50 states – 486 in all, more than 8 percent of the total.
“We’ve been an underrepresented demographic in politics for a long time,” said Jerame Davis of National Stonewall Democrats, a gay-rights affiliate of the party. “Finally seeing us appropriately represented is just a thrill.”
The large role for gays and lesbians is a striking contrast with last week’s Republican convention, which ratified a platform opposing gay-rights priorities and was attended by perhaps a few dozen openly gay delegates. It also shows how far the Democrats have evolved since Bill Clinton, now a staunch supporter of same-sex marriage, signed a bipartisan bill in 1996 defining marriage as a one-man, one-woman union.
President Barack Obama took office in 2009 as a self-described “fierce advocate” for gay rights, yet for much of his first term he drew flak from impatient activists. They were frustrated that he wouldn’t endorse same-sex marriage and wanted him to move faster to enable gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
The military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was repealed a year ago, and in May the president completed what he had called a personal “evolution” by endorsing gay marriage. Within days of that announcement, previously reticent gay donors pumped several million dollars into Obama’s campaign fund, and his backing from the gay-rights groups has been enthusiastic ever since.
The Democrats’ convention in Charlotte, N.C., this week serves as a celebration by those groups and their supporters, many of whom thronged into gay-oriented events on Tuesday. They were looking forward to speeches from three gay Democrats in the House – Reps. Jared Polis of Colorado, Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who is campaigning to become the first openly gay U.S. senator.
Polis, who introduced himself as a gay father, was one of several speakers during the opening session to evoke the party’s newly formalized support for same-sex marriage.
“The America that I believe in … is one in which loving familes of all forms are respected and celebrated as the backbone of society,” he said, “Diversity is America’s strength.”
The convention marks the first time that goals were set for each state delegation in regard to how many LGBT delegates they should include. According to the Stonewall Democrats, 38 delegations met or exceeded their goal, and three states – Alaska, Arkansas and Mississippi – have openly gay delegates for the first time.
Davis acknowledged that 8 percent of the delegates might seem like an overrepresentation of gays and lesbians, given that many experts believe their share of the adult U.S. population is less than half that figure. But Davis argued that the delegate share accurately reflected gays’ importance to the Democratic Party in terms of financial support and voter loyalty.
Robert Loevy, a political science professor at Colorado College, agreed that the large LGBT contingent made political sense even it prompted a backlash from social conservatives.
“The Democrats were never going to get those votes anyway,” Loevy said. “Having gays and lesbians be such a strong presence in the party brings in some campaign workers and brings in the money… And most important, it wins the support of young people.”
The Republican Party, by contrast, did not try to tally the number of gay delegates at its convention in Tampa, Fla. R. Clarke Cooper of Log Cabin Republicans, which represents gay GOP voters, estimated that there were “a few dozen” gay and lesbian delegates, and said he was glad that his party “doesn’t do identity politics.”
“I’d hate to think I’d been selected for something because of my orientation,” said Cooper, suggesting that the Democratic Party and the Obama administration risked being viewed as pandering to gays as part of a “divide-and-conquer” strategy catering to special-interest groups.
Looking ahead to future elections, Cooper says he’s optimistic that the Republican Party will move away from anti-gay stands and become more attractive to gay voters. He noted that billionaire industrialist David Koch, a major donor to GOP campaigns this year, recently told Politico he favors legalization of same-sex marriage
For now, though, Cooper describes the GOP platform as “a stinker” that will not help Republican candidates this year because of its “aggressive and divisive language.” He said he was disappointed that Tony Perkins, a leading social conservative who heads the Family Research Council, was able to influence planks that took a hard line against gay marriage and other gay-rights issues.
David Welch, a former GOP National Committee research director and campaign adviser to John McCain, is among a faction of relatively moderate Republicans who wish the party was keeping pace with the Democrats on same-sex marriage. But he doubts that the emphasis on gay rights at the Democratic convention will provide much of a boost for Obama.
“They’re playing into the narrative that Barack Obama can’t run on the economy, and this election has to be about the politics of division,” he said.
Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College in New York City, said in an online column Tuesday that the Democrats should not take gay and lesbian support for granted. He urged the GOP to compete for their support.
“The Republicans must learn to appeal to LGBT voters on the basis of promises that Republicans in office will pursue policies that will be good for the LGBT people,” Sherrill wrote for the Bilerico Project, an online aggregator of gay-rights blogs.
“And, frankly, this will be good for the LGBT people,” he wrote. “If the Republicans were to act rationally and make a serious effort to get LGBT votes, Democrats would have to be better. Our community can only benefit when both parties fight for our votes.”
from The Associated Press
When it comes to gays and the Boy Scouts, President Barack Obama and the youth organization he serves as honorary president have agreed to disagree.
The White House on Wednesday said Obama opposes the youth organization’s recently reaffirmed policy of excluding gays as members and adult leaders. He has no plans to resign as honorary president, White House spokesman Shin Inouye said.
The Scouts said in a statement that they respect Obama’s opinion and believe that “good people” can disagree on the subject and still work together to “accomplish the common good.”
American presidents have been honorary presidents of the Boy Scouts for a century. Obama became the Scouts’ honorary president in March 2009, shortly after taking office
Last month, after a confidential two-year review, the Scouts reaffirmed their longstanding policy, which has been the target of numerous protest campaigns.
For three weeks, the White House didn’t comment on the Scouts’ decision. On Wednesday, the press office issued an email to The Associated Press on the subject.
“The president believes the Boy Scouts is a valuable organization that has helped educate and build character in American boys for more than a century,” the White House statement said. “He also opposes discrimination in all forms, and as such opposes this policy that discriminates on basis of sexual orientation.”
The Boy Scouts responded with a brief statement from their national headquarters in Irving, Texas.
“The Boy Scouts of America respects the opinions of President Obama and appreciates his recognition that Scouting is a valuable organization,” it said. “We believe that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to accomplish the common good.”
Obama is a staunch supporter of gay-rights, even coming out in support of same-sex marriage earlier this year. Various liberal organizations have called on him to distance the White House from the Boy Scouts because of its exclusionary membership policy.
Two years ago, the Boy Scouts invited Obama to appear at its 100th anniversary jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia. The president sent a videotaped message, but the White House said he was unable to attend because of out-of-town commitments to tape a TV appearance and attend Democratic fundraisers.
Obama’s Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, has not spoken publicly about the Boy Scouts’ policy in recent days. A campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, told the AP that he still stands by his support of the Scouts as he noted in a 1994 political debate in Massachusetts.
“I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue,” Romney said then. “I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.”
from The Associated Press
An anti-gay letter urging Christians to vote for Mitt Romney that was printed today in The Springfield News-Leader has been confirmed by the newspaper as having been penned by Jane Pitt, mother of Brad Pitt.
The verification comes amid some confusion, as the Missouri newspaper first printed an editor’s note denying any relation between the letter writer and movie star. That was later replaced with a second editor’s note, reading, “To clear up earlier confusion, the News-Leader has verified the letter writer is the mother of actor Brad Pitt and local businessman Doug Pitt.”
The letter — itself a response to another opinion piece in the newspaper justifying Christians’ rights to refuse to vote for Romney because he is a Mormon — identifies Mrs. Pitt as “a Christian [who differs] with the Mormon religion.”
But, Pitt continues, “any Christian should spend much time in prayer before refusing to vote for a family man with high morals, business experience, who is against abortion, and shares Christian conviction concerning homosexuality just because he is a Mormon.”
Pitt goes on to write that “any Christian who does not vote or writes in a name is casting a vote for Romney’s opponent, Barack Hussein Obama — a man who sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for years, did not hold a public ceremony to mark the National Day of Prayer, and is a liberal who supports the killing of unborn babies and same-sex marriage.”
Along with Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt has long been an outspoken champion of gay rights. Pitt once told Ellen DeGeneres, “I’ve said that we would not be getting married until everyone in this country had the right to get married.” The two nevertheless announced their engagement in April, after seven years and six children together.
In January, Pitt said of his mother in a cover profile in The Hollywood Reporter, “She’s very, very loving — very open, genuine, and it’s hilarious because she always gets painted in the tabloids as a she-devil. There’s not an ounce of malice in her. She wants everyone to be happy.”
In the same story, the Moneyball star revealed his own support of Obama in the upcoming presidential election.
from The Hollywood Reporter
A Boy Scouts of America national board member, James Turley, who is also global chairman and CEO of the accounting firm Ernst & Young, recently said he “will work from within to seek a change” to overturn the BSA policy that bans gay Scouts and leaders.
But is Turley working on his own initiative, or has the White House prodded him with perks and favors?
Is it a coincidence that Turley came out swinging against the BSA’s century-old policy to ban gays from leadership and that he has such close affiliations with the pro-gay Obama administration?
Is it a coincidence that Turley and his wife, Lynne, were just guests at a state dinner hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in honor of British Prime Minister David Cameron at the White House on March 14?
Is it a coincidence that Turley was nominated to President Obama’s Export Council in 2010?
Is it a coincidence Turley was granted a seat on an investment advisory panel that met with none other than Vladimir Putin in Moscow in October?
Is it a coincidence that Turley has been a global cheerleader for Obama’s economic strategies and an economic ambassador of sorts to other mogul business leaders, as is clearly seen in his Bloomberg interview from the 2011 economic summit in Davos, Switzerland?
Is it a coincidence that Michael Mundaca, who was the assistant secretary of the treasury for tax policy from 2009 to 2011 and advised Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on all matters relating to taxation, recently joined the team of Ernst & Young?Is it a coincidence that, as the White House website explained, “Ernst & Young LLP will honor (the Obama administration’s Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s) youth entrepreneurs at regional Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award galas across the country, bringing important attention to the next generation of young entrepreneurs”?
Is it a coincidence that a couple of months ago, Obama reversed his position on marriage, extending the union to gay couples, and that Turley just came out of the closet in his position against the BSA’s position?
Is it a coincidence that in the same few weeks when Turley turned on the BSA with his pro-gay stance, Obama turned on the U.S. military and sent down a decree that the service branches must celebrate “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month”?
Is it a coincidence that Turley is in tight cahoots with the White House and that he is the only BSA national board member in 100 years to oppose its pro-traditional family stance?
Is it a coincidence that Turley just announced his resignation as CEO of Ernst & Young (effective June 2013) and that he now is offering the White House a parting pro-gay BSA gift in gratitude for all its presidential favors to him and Ernst & Young over the past few years?
These Turley-Obama cords, connections and correlations are only the tip of the iceberg.
Is it a coincidence, too, that on March 3, 2009, Obama became the honorary president of the BSA — a position proudly and publicly held and highlighted by all presidents since President William Howard Taft in 1910 — but that Obama’s induction was held behind closed doors in the Oval Office with seven or so Boy Scouts present and absolutely nothing noted in the White House daily briefing or any other official communication?
Is it a coincidence that Obama was unable to attend the 100th anniversary gala of the Boy Scouts of America in his own backyard (Washington, D.C.) Feb. 9, 2010, because he had to hold his first national news conference?
Is it a coincidence that as the honorary BSA president and a “constitutional lawyer,” Obama hasn’t had one minute in his schedule over the past years to defend or say anything about the series of lawsuits that have been levied against the BSA because of its First Amendment rights to stand against atheists, agnostics and homosexuals?
It is a coincidence that Obama will stand up repeatedly for the children of illegal immigrants (and grant them amnesty and taxpayer money) but that he will not once stand up for children in the BSA and the organization’s rights and freedoms to hold their own core values and beliefs?
For years, I’ve signed and sent out hundreds of Eagle Scout recognition letters. And I personally have known a host of Boy Scouts, Eagle Scouts and BSA leaders. These individuals epitomize the best of America. Indeed, the BSA is as integral a part of American life and culture as hot dogs, baseball and Grandma’s apple pie.
Even President John F. Kennedy proudly proclaimed at the 50th anniversary celebration of the BSA: “For more than 50 years, Scouting has played an important part in the lives of the Boy Scouts of this nation. It has helped to mold character, to form friendships, to provide a worthwhile outlet for the natural energies of growing boys and to train these boys to become good citizens of the future. In a very real sense, the principles learned and practiced as Boy Scouts add to the strength of America and her ideals.”
Hasn’t America reached a new low in its history when its president (and the honorary president of the BSA!) distances himself and his administration from the Boy Scouts of America yet invites groups such as the Secular Student Alliance to participate in its faith and college missions?
I’ll ask once more: Is it a coincidence that BSA national board member James Turley came out swinging against the BSA’s century-old policy to ban gays from leadership and that he has such close affiliations with the pro-gay Obama administration?
How does the adage go?
If two people think so much alike, you can bet that one person isn’t thinking. Or maybe a more fitting adage here might be this: You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.
Building up the next generation is not only why I fully support the Boy Scouts of America but also why I started my own nonprofit organization, KickStartKids. My wife, Gena, and I consider it one of the greatest missions of our lives. You can learn more about the Boy Scouts of America by going to http://www.scouting.org and more about KickStartKids by going to http://www.KickStartKids.org.
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA – The Florida pastor who ignited an international furor by threatening to burn a pile of Korans has applied his subtle touch to the 2012 presidential campaign by constructing a gallows from which a likeness of President Barack Obama now hangs in effigy.
The display in the front yard of Terry Jones’s Dove World Outreach Center (DWOC) in Gainesville features a dummy wearing an Obama mask hanging from a yellow noose. Along with an American flag and a rainbow-striped gay pride flag, the scene includes an Uncle Sam dummy and a child’s doll hanging from the right hand of the Obama figure.
Nearby, the words “Obama is Killing America” are printed on a trailer. So, it appears, the creepy Jones is returning the favor.
Despite the small size of his following, Jones has had an outsized impact due to his inflammatory (and shameless) tactics, which included his 2010 threat to burn Korans on the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.
The DWOC has been criticized for cult-like rules detailed in an “Academy Rulebook” prepared by Jones’s wife. Fox example, prospective ministers were directed to cut off most contact with family members. “Family occasions like wedding, funerals or Birthdays are no exception to this rule,” students were warned. “No phone calls. Exceptions can be made under certain circumstances but only after receiving permission.”
from The Smoking Gun
Tickets for the sold-out LGBT Leadership Council Gala started at $1,250 per person, and 600 people bought them. The gala was the centerpiece of a two-day fundraising swing to San Francisco and Los Angeles that was expected to net more than $5.5 million. Obama also attended a smaller, $25,000-a-plate dinner later Wednesday at the home of “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy, as well as a breakfast Thursday at the home of developer Charles Quarles.
Actresses Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon and Jane Lynch attended the Murphy reception.
Earlier Wednesday in San Francisco, the president participated in a closed-door roundtable meeting with 25 local business leaders (ticket price: $35,800), and a fundraising luncheon for 250 (general admission: $5,000).
In San Francisco, Obama mentioned neither same-sex marriage nor the previous day’s Wisconsin election, in which Republican Gov. Scott Walker withstood a Democratic effort to recall him. Obama appeared with baseball legend Willie Mays, California Gov. Jerry Brown and Timothy M. Kaine, who is running for Senate in Virginia after serving as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
But in Los Angeles, where the audience included Cher and “Modern Family” star Jesse Tyler Ferguson, appealing to the gay community was the president’s central message. He recalled working out on a Marine base in Hawaii at Christmastime and having one soldier after another (all fit and with low-body fat, he said, garnering more laughs) thank him for repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
“I could not be prouder of the work we’ve done on behalf of the LGBT community,” he said.
The singer Pink was originally scheduled to perform at the gala but canceled because of illness. Criss was the fill-in, and jokingly tweeted on Monday: “?:) So bummed I’ll have to miss my dental appointment to sing for The US President Wed night. thanx @Pink for messin that up!! _#greattiming.”
Asked on Air Force One on Wednesday whether Obama is a fan of “Glee,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said he wasn’t certain.
“I haven’t heard the president talk about that,” Carney said. “I think he has referenced some of the shows he does watch, so I don’t know — I don’t know the answer to your question.”
Money raised at the events will go to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fund that includes Obama’s reelection campaign, the Democratic National Committee and state Democratic parties.
from The Washington Post
President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign is beginning to express some confidence that the president’s historic, yet politically risky, embrace of gay marriage may not hurt him in the November election.
In a conference call announcing efforts to get gay and lesbian voters engaged in the Obama campaign, officials said poll numbers on same-sex marriage were increasingly tilting in their favor.
“A lot of recent polls show that support for gay marriage across the country is growing,” said Clo Ewing, an Obama campaign spokeswoman.
That includes a Washington Post-ABC News poll out Wednesday showing 53 percent of Americans say gay marriage should be a legal, a new high for the poll. Thirty-nine percent, a new low, say gay marriage should be illegal.
A separate poll showed that just 7 percent of registered voters said Obama’s public support for gay marriage raised concerns about supporting him. For 31 percent of voters, the president’s announcement reinforced their support of him and for 62 percent of voters, it did not make a difference, according to the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll.
Immediately following Obama’s announcement of support for gay marriage, White House and campaign aides readily acknowledged that the political fallout was unclear. Obama himself said it was “very hard to say” whether the issue would hurt him in his fall campaign against presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Despite the new national polling, Obama’s embrace of gay marriage comes with political risks. Thirty states have voted against gay marriage, including North Carolina, a key battleground state where voters approved a ban on same-sex unions the day before Obama announced his public support in a television interview.
The president’s announcement earlier this month ended his lengthy self-described “evolution” on the hot-button social issue. While the White House insisted Obama always planned to make his views on gay marriage known this summer, some aides worried that doing so could hurt him politically with socially conservative voters in swing states, like Virginia and North Carolina.
Other Obama aides see the president’s support for same-sex marriage as an opportunity to boost enthusiasm and fundraising among gay supporters and young people. With that in mind, the Obama campaign has sought to turn the president’s embrace of gay marriage into an area of contrast with Romney, highlighting the former Massachusetts governor’s support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions.
“Romney’s position on same-sex marriage is also historic but not in the way it should be,” said Joe Solmonese, a co-chair of Obama’s campaign. “He has pledged to write discrimination into the constitution.”
The Obama campaign also announced a new effort Wednesday to boost voter registration and turnout in the gay and lesbian community through phone banks, house parties and other grassroots outreach efforts.
from The Associated Press
Newsweek, which has recently become a conduit for controversy with its cover art choices, drew more attention with the debut of its latest issue declaring President Obama to be “the first gay president.”
The cover, featuring Obama anointed with a rainbow halo above his head, made its arrival on newsstands Monday and comes in the wake of Obama’s declaration last week that he is personally in favor of gay marriage.
The cover article, by prominent Newsweek political writer and outspoken gay community member Andrew Sullivan, delves into Obama’s past and asserts that given his background, his declaration of support for gay marriage should come as no surprise. Drawing parallels between the sense of isolation felt by many growing into accepting their homosexuality and Obama’s struggle to assert his own racial identity in his early years, Sullivan wholeheartedly celebrates Obama’s decision.
“Like many others, I braced myself for disappointment,” Sullivan writes. “And yet when I watched the interview, the tears came flooding down. The moment reminded me of my own wedding day. I had figured it out in my head, but not my heart. And I was utterly unprepared for how psychologically transformative the moment would be. To have the president of the United States affirm my humanity — and the humanity of all gay Americans — was, unexpectedly, a watershed.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, when asked if Obama had any thoughts about the cover Monday, said “I don’t know if he’s seen it and I haven’t spoken to him about it.”
Sullivan, it should be noted, was also one of the first voices within the media calling for gay marriage, with his prominent 1989 cover story in the New Republic, “The Case for Gay Marriage.”
“It’s one of the richest ironies of our society’s blind spot toward gays that essentially conservative social goals should have the appearance of being so radical,” Sullivan wrote back in 1989. “But gay marriage is not a radical step. It avoids the mess of domestic partnership; it is humane; it is conservative in the best sense of the word. It’s also about relationships. Given that gay relationships will always exist, what possible social goal is advanced by framing the law to encourage those relationships to be unfaithful, undeveloped, and insecure?”
Obama’s declaration comes alongside a turning point for gay marriage in the court of public opinion, with a recent Gallup poll finding that, for the first time in the poll’s history, a majority of Americans support the legalization of gay marriage, 53% to 45%. But, one-fourth of Americans still say that Obama’s support for gay marriage will make them less likely to vote for him in November, while 13% say they’re now more likely to vote in his favor. Obama will also be using his declaration as a means to bolster his fund-raising, as reported earlier by The Times.
from The Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON – As he weighed a shift in his public position on gay marriage, perhaps no one had as much influence on President Obama as his wife, Michelle.
“This is something that, you know, we’ve talked about over the years and she, you know, she feels the same way, she feels the same way that I do,” Obama told ABC’s Robin Roberts Wednesday.
Even as Obama’s position was in a state of evolution, White House advisers say the first lady went out of her way to invite gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual couples to the events she sponsored for military families.
Around the West Wing, there are several gay staffers, and at least one in a committed relationship and raising children. And the Obama daughters have friends with same-sex parents, whom the first family has gotten to know.
“There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective,” Obama said.
One day a few weeks ago, the president told his top advisors that he had reached a personal decision. He wanted to weigh in on the gay marriage discussion.
“He was ready,” said one senior administration official who requested anonymity to discuss the private talk.
The account offered by White House aides Wednesday gives the impression of a carefully planned rollout of the president’s new view. Before then, the subject was one officials were reluctant to discuss.
After Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday that he was “absolutely comfortable” with gay couples being married, the White House was at pains to say the comments were entirely consistent with Obama’s position, and swatted away questions about new policy that might be forthcoming.
Now, following the president’s own comments, aides say he wanted to affirm the idea of same-sex marriage before the Democratic National Convention.
It would be a subject of discussion in platform talks and in private conversation, the president told his team, and he wanted to be in front of it. He also felt it was right to tell the country that he had arrived at a new place before the election, said a second senior official.
Advisers tried to game out how that would play in terms of the election. Maybe swing state voters wouldn’t like it, it would suppress enthusiasm among black volunteers or it would turn off evangelical Hispanics otherwise leaning toward Obama.
On the other hand, maybe voters would give him credit for taking a stand. Perhaps young volunteers and donors would be inspired and energized by the move.
There was no way to predict the “crosscurrents,” said the second official.
The White House team was planning to take more time to lay their plan, but then the vice president went on “Meet the Press” last Sunday. He wasn’t expected to articulate his own view if asked about this but rather to talk about the president’s record and evolving viewpoint.
Because the vice president knew Obama was ready, a senior adviser said, he “leaned in more than he normally would have” when he was asked about the issue.
A day later, Education Secretary Arne Duncan surprised the staff by weighing in with his position in support of same-sex marriage.
The two events combined served to move up the timing, and the West Wing reached out to ABC to give the president a chance to say it himself.
“He always planned to do it sooner rather than later,” the official said. “This just moved up the timing.”
from The Los Angeles Times
President Barack Obama could be caught in an election-year bind on gay marriage, wedged between the pressure of supporters who want him to back same-sex marriage and the political perils of igniting an explosive social issue in the midst of the campaign.
Interviews with gay rights advocates and people close to Obama’s campaign suggest it is no longer a matter of if, but when the president publicly voices his support. But Obama backers are split over whether that will happen before the November elections.
Gay marriage is already a big issue in a handful of states that have it on their ballots in November, including Maine, where Obama was headlining two fundraisers Friday. The president also headlined fundraisers Friday in Vermont, one of six states, plus the District of Columbia, where gay marriage is legal.
But neither in Vermont nor in Maine did Obama touch on the issue during his public remarks.
Once an opponent of gay marriage, Obama declared in 2010 that his personal views on the subject were “evolving.” He has gone no further in public since then.
People familiar with the Obama campaign’s deliberations have tamped down expectations that the president might declare his support for gay marriage before the election. They say the campaign’s internal conversations on the issue focus instead on how to energize gay and lesbian voters in spite of Obama’s lack of clarity on the issue.
Public support for gay marriage is increasing in the U.S., including among the independent voters who are a key to general election success.
But regardless of whether Obama has made up his mind on the subject, it’s not the topic his campaign wants to be talking about heading into an election expected to be decided largely on economic issues. As White House and campaign officials learned all too well during the controversy over birth control access earlier this year, stepping into social issues – even those with Democratic support – can quickly throw the president’s message off course.
While Obama aides saw the contraception issue as an important appeal to women voters, there may be little election-year payoff for the president taking a stand on gay marriage.
Obama’s record on gay rights issues, including the repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay service members and an order for the Justice Department not to enforce a provision that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, has already solidified the overwhelming backing of gay rights supporters. Obama often highlights the end of the Clinton-era “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay military service, a surefire applause line with his supporters.
“Change is the fact that for the first time in history you don’t have to hide who you love in order to serve the country that you love,” he told a campaign crowd at Southern Maine Community College. “We ended `don’t ask, don’t tell.’”
His Republican rivals, including GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, not only oppose gay marriage, but also some other legal protections for gays and lesbians.
As for Obama, “the gay rights community is now enthusiastically in his corner in terms of the re-election, so the pressure to deliver before the election is off,” said Richard Socarides, a prominent gay rights advocate.
The risk in Obama publicly backing gay marriage before the election is that it could become a rallying cry for conservatives who have thus far been reluctant to get behind Romney.
Still, many Democrats and gay rights advocates believe Obama may end up being forced to take a position on the issue before November.
The most pressing effort comes from within Obama’s own party. Several high-profile Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and more than 20 Senate Democrats, want support for gay marriage added to the party’s election platform. The platform will be adopted at the Democratic National Convention in early September, where Obama will accept the presidential nomination.
So far, Obama advisers have sidestepped questions about whether he would support a gay marriage plank on the platform.
“We don’t even have a platform committee yet, much less a platform,” Obama senior adviser David Plouffe said in a television interview.
A person close to the Obama campaign said the president’s re-election team is wary of the platform effort and prefers to let the president move on the issue at his own pace.
People familiar with the campaign’s thinking requested anonymity in order to discuss internal strategy.
Gay rights advocates hope state ballot initiatives on gay marriage, like the one in Maine, could force Obama to weigh in, as he has on other state issues.
“He’s going to be in a lot of situations like this where the issue becomes unavoidable,” said Socarides, a former Clinton White House official. “Even though he might want to avoid this, I think he’s going to come up right against it in so many situations in the next couple of months.”
Obama’s reluctance to embrace gay marriage has increasingly put him at odds with a majority of Americans. A Washington Post/ABC News poll this month found that 52 percent felt it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married, while 43 percent said it should be illegal.
Support for gay marriage is highest among Democrats, with 64 percent supportive of the issue. Just over half of independents – 54 percent – back legalized gay marriage, according to the Post/ABC poll. Support among Republicans is the lowest, at 39 percent.
Gay rights advocates say those numbers – particularly the growing support among independents – suggest there would be little political risk for Obama in backing gay marriage. And they say taking a stand in an election year could help boost enthusiasm among gay voters and young people, two core Obama constituencies.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said the president’s evolution on gay marriage will be personal, not political.
“The president and the president alone will come to a decision,” LaBolt said.
Maine’s state Legislature approved gay marriage in 2009, but voters rejected it 53 percent to 47 percent that November. Gay marriage supporters believe enough people have changed their minds that the outcome will be different this time around.
from The Associated Press
Just as President Obama’s top campaign advisors are arguing that the prolonged GOP primary is raising controversial issues that will alienate the eventual GOP nominee from independent and swing voters in the fall, Democrats are facing a similar quandary.
On Wednesday morning, the chairman of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, called for the party’s platform to push for the legalization of gay marriage. That’s a position opposed by Obama — though he’s said his views on the issue are “evolving” — and one that many Democrats ostensibly would not want to have highlighted a few months before the general election.
Campaign manager Jim Messina, asked about the matter during a conference call with reporters, did not take a position on such a plank, but said that such a proposal would go through the normal platform revision process.
But at the same time, he and senior strategist David Axelrod argued that GOP front-runner Mitt Romney’s wooing of conservative voters, such as his hard-line immigration stance or his refusal to forcefully condemn Rush Limbaugh for calling a law student a “slut,” will not be forgotten if he is the Republican nominee.
“This is not a game – you’re running for president of the United States,” Axelrod said. “If you don’t have the strength to stand up to the most strident voices in your party, how are you going to stand up to [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad? How are you going to stand up to the challenges of the presidency?”
from The Los Angeles Times
President Obama on Thursday said the American public has proved remarkably supportive of his administration’s policies on gay rights as the “right thing to do.”
Appearing at a campaign fundraiser at a private residence in Northwest Washington, Obama hailed the end of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gay and lesbian service members as an example of how attitudes are becoming more tolerant.
“The perception was somehow that this would be this huge, ugly issue,” Obama told the crowd of 40 supporters at the home of Karen Dixon and Nan Schaffer.
But, he added, since his administration ended the policy “nothing’s happened” and there “hasn’t been any notion of erosion and unit cohesion.”
“In some ways,” Obama said, “what’s been remarkable is how readily the public recognizes this is the right thing to do.”
Obama called his work on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues “profoundly American” and declared what he “could not be prouder” of his administration’s track record.
Yet Obama has faced renewed questions in recent days about his own position on gay marriage in the wake of a federal appeals court ruling Tuesday that struck down California’s Prop 8 law that banned same-sex marriage.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said that Obama was pleased with the court’s decision because “divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights to same-sex couples is something this president has long opposed.”
But Carney said Obama’s position on gay marriage, which the president has described as “evolving” since campaigning for the White House, had not changed.
Obama did not address the Prop 8 ruling at the fundraiser, where he was introduced by Chicago Cubs owner Laura Ricketts, the first openly gay owner of a major-league baseball team.
She told the attendees, each of whom paid the maximum $35,800 allowed under federal campaign finance rules, that the event was being held “to show the president that the LGBT community stands strongly behind his reelection.”
“I know the president stands with us,” Ricketts said. (Obama, a Chicago White Sox fan, joked that the introduction was the best a Cubs fan had ever given him.)
Obama closed his remarks with an anecdote about working out at a military gym during his recent Hawaii vacation. While lifting weights, some Marines approached Obama to thank him for ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
“I didn’t even know whether they were gay or lesbian,” Obama recounted. “I didn’t ask — because that wasn’t the point. The point was these were outstanding Marines who appreciated the fact that everybody was going to be treated fairly.”
from The Washington Post