WASHINGTON -- Using some of his strongest language to date in siding with the homosexual community, President Obama told a gathering of the Human Rights Campaign Saturday that his commitment to their cause was "unwavering" and that his administration, before he leaves office, would end the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.
"I'm here with a simple message: I'm here with you in that fight" for homosexual causes, Obama, the keynote speaker, told those gathered at an event held by the nation's largest homosexual activist organization. "For even as we face extraordinary challenges as a nation, we cannot -- and we will not -- put aside issues of basic equality."
Unlike a speech delivered to homosexual leaders in June, Obama in his Oct. 10 address put no qualifiers on his pledge to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell. He did, though, repeat language in that June speech criticizing what he called "outworn arguments and old attitudes" about homosexuality -- language that was viewed by evangelicals then and now as condemning orthodox interpretations of Scripture.
Additionally, Obama repeated his stance for overturning the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act -- which, if reversed, could force every state to recognize "gay marriages" from other states. He also stated his opposition to those who would "enshrine discrimination into our constitution" -- a reference to a federal marriage amendment and presumably also state marriage amendments.
He made news by saying he would sign -- if it makes it to his desk -- a defense authorization bill that includes an amendment broadening the hate crimes law to include homosexual persons. There was some question as to whether he would sign it because it contains funding for a fighter plane engine he opposes. Conservatives say the hate crimes protections put religious liberties at risk.
"My expectation is that when you look back on these years, you will see a time in which we put a stop to discrimination against gays and lesbians -- whether in the office or on the battlefield," Obama said. "You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman. You will see a nation that's valuing and cherishing these families as we build a more perfect union -- a union in which gay Americans are an important part. I am committed to these goals. And my administration will continue fighting to achieve them."
Obama spoke to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) on the eve of a National Equality March in Washington that focused on homosexual issues. He thanked HRC for "the work you do every day in pursuit of equality" for those "who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender."
"Despite the real gains that we've made, there's still laws to change and there's still hearts to open," he said. "There are still fellow citizens, perhaps neighbors, even loved ones -- good and decent people -- who hold fast to outworn arguments and old attitudes, who fail to see your families like their families, who would deny you the rights most Americans take for granted. And that's painful and it's heartbreaking. And yet you continue, leading by the force of the arguments you make, and by the power of the example that you set in your own lives -- as parents and friends, as PTA members and church members, as advocates and leaders in your communities. And you're making a difference."
Bob Stith, the Southern Baptist national strategist for gender issues and representative of the denomination's Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals (SBCTheWayOut.com), once again expressed frustration at how Obama characterized Christian conservatives. He also said Obama marginalized ex-gays.
"President Obama continues to portray all who disagree with him as those who 'hold fast to outworn arguments and old attitudes,'" Stith told Baptist Press. "The inference is that if an attitude is old it must be wrong. The constitution is an old document. The Bible is older still. ... It is adherence to those timeless teachings of Scripture that has made it possible for thousands of men and women to find freedom from a struggle for which they did not ask and one from which they desperately sought freedom. If our president truly wants to end discrimination, he will be equally passionate about the discrimination these heroic people face. He will care about their stories and fight for the right for their stories to be heard. Until he does, his passion and eloquence will ring hollow."
Obama said he and his wife Michelle sent "a message" when they "invited LGBT families to the White House to participate in events like the Easter Egg Roll." Obama's speech came one day after John Berry, a homosexual who is director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management said the time is ripe to pass legislation favored by the homosexual community.
"This is the best opportunity we will ever have as a community, and shame on us if we don't succeed," Barry said, according to CNSNews.com.
Exit polls showed Obama carried 70 percent of the national homosexual vote. Regarding the military's homosexual policy, Obama said simply, "I will end Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That's my commitment to you."
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and a former U.S. Marine, told Baptist Press the military's policy makes practical sense.
“Sometimes you’ll have 100, 500, or 1,000 soldiers, sailors or Marines together in a barracks or in a ship bay, all using the same showers and bathroom facilities," Perkins previously said. "When you introduce sexuality into that kind of environment, it begins to break down discipline and unit cohesion."
Stith said "the church must wake up to the struggle in which we find ourselves."
"Pastors should read the president's speech carefully and recognize the dangers it poses to the church," Stith said. "We should acknowledge that the way we have been approaching this issue has not brought the desired results. During his presidency of the [Southern Baptist Convention], Frank Page said 'in our convention and in our work we have been fighting the wrong enemy. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood. A revival is needed to reawaken God's people. I do believe we are at a crossroads moment, an irrecoverable moment and we cannot miss another opportunity.'
"We must avail ourselves," Stith said, "of every opportunity and resource to train our people to be proactive and redemptive in reaching out to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions. We must care more about helping men and women find freedom than winning a political victory. Until we are clear on that, I'm afraid our passion and eloquence will ring hollow as well."