President Obama on Saturday evening delivered a keynote speech to a group of over 3,000 LGBT rights advocates at the Human Rights Campaign’s 15th Annual HRC National Dinner. During his speech, Obama called for action on the Employment Non Discrimination Act and an end to the Defense of Marriage Act but said that to make these changes a reality, and to continue progress in America as a whole, he would need the help and support of the LGBT community.
The President did, however, start his speech on a lighter note:
I see a lot of friends in the house. I appreciate the chance to join you tonight. I also took a trip out to California last week, where I held some productive bilateral talks with your leader, Lady Gaga. (Laughter.) She was wearing 16-inch heels. (Laughter.) She was eight feet tall. (Laughter.) It was a little intimidating.
From there, President Obama moved to highlighting the administration’s considerable achievements, especially the administrations strong advocacy for a repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy:
Many questioned whether we’d succeed in repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And, yes, it took two years to get the repeal through Congress. (Applause.) We had to hold a coalition together. We had to keep up the pressure. We took some flak along the way. (Applause.) But with the help of HRC, we got it done. And “don’t ask, don’t tell” is history. (Applause.) And all over the world, there are men and women serving this country just as they always have — with honor and courage and discipline and valor. We got it done. (Applause.) We got that done. All around the world, you’ve got gays and lesbians who are serving, and the only difference is now they can put up a family photo. (Laughter.) No one has to live a lie to serve the country they love.
With this President Obama did however overlook trans servicemembers who must continue to live closeted in the military because the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” did not benefit them.
Obama then went on to trumpet the administration’s historic decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
Particularly poignant however were Obama’s words when it came to the administration’s anti-bullying advocacy work:
And together, we also have to keep sending a message to every young person in this country who might feel alone or afraid because they’re gay or transgender — who may be getting picked on or pushed around because they’re different. We’ve got to make sure they know that there are adults they can talk to; that they are never alone; that there is a whole world waiting for them filled with possibility. That’s why we held a summit at the White House on bullying. That’s why we’re going to continue to focus on this issue. (Applause.) This isn’t just “kids being kids.” It’s wrong. It’s destructive. It’s never acceptable. And I want all those kids to know that the President and the First Lady is standing right by them every inch of the way. (Applause.) I want them to know that we love them and care about them, and they’re not by themselves. That’s what I want them to know. (Applause.)
This was clearly also a campaign speech. Not only did Obama call on the HRC crowd to help in the fight for LGBT rights, he also highlighted the administration’s new legislation to tackle America’s economic situation, appealing to the crowd not just as LGBT people but also as American citizens who share the same concerns as everyone else:
Now, I also need your help in the broader fight to get this economy back on track. You may have heard, I introduced a bill called the American Jobs Act. (Applause.) It’s been almost three weeks since I sent it up to Congress. That’s three weeks longer than it should have taken to pass this common-sense bill. (Applause.) This is a bill filled with ideas that both parties have supported — tax breaks for companies that hire veterans; road projects; school renovations; putting construction crews back to work rebuilding America; tax cuts for middle-class families so they can make ends meet and spend a little more at local stores and restaurants that need the business.
Now, you may have heard me say this a few times before — I’ll say it again: Pass the bill. (Applause.) Enough gridlock. Enough delay. Enough politics. Pass this bill. Put this country back to work. (Applause.) HRC, you know how Congress works. I’m counting on you to have my back. Go out there and get them to pass this bill. (Applause.) Let’s put America back to work.
Typically, Obama chose to end in his usual rousing oratory fashion, invoking the very public coming out of airman Randy Phillips and the creation of the It Gets Better project and tying these things together, not just as important moments for the LGBT community, but as characteristic moments of the American story:
It happens when a father realizes he doesn’t just love his daughter, but also her wife. (Applause.) It happens when a soldier tells his unit that he’s gay, and they tell him they knew it all along and they didn’t care, because he was the toughest guy in the unit. (Applause.) It happens when a video sparks a movement to let every single young person know they’re not alone, and things will get better. It happens when people look past their ultimately minor differences to see themselves in the hopes and struggles of their fellow human beings. That’s where change is happening. (Applause.)
And that’s not just the story of the gay rights movement. That’s the story of America — (applause) — the slow, inexorable march towards a more perfect union. (Applause.) You are contributing to that story, and I’m confident we can continue to write another chapter together.
Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. (Applause.)
You can watch a video of President Obama’s speech below:
NEXT PAGE: Read the full transcript of President Obama’s speech.
Read more: Anti-bullying, defense of marriage act, doma, dont ask dont tell, gay, gay adoption, gay marriage, gay rights, gay speech, HRC, human rights campaign, it gets better project, lady gaga, lesbian, lgbt, lgbt issues, lgbt USA, obama speech, president obama, president obama and gay rights, president obama human rights campaign speech 2011, president obama lgbt issues, transgender rights
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