President Barack Obama
President Obama has again promised to ensure LGBT equality in the US and to end the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ ban on lesbians and gays in the military, but failed to provide a timeline.
Obama, who was award the Nobel Peace Prize last week, was speaking at a diner on Saturday night for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organisation in the US.
“I will end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell. That is my commitment to you,” Obama said in his 20 minute speech to almost 3,000 guests at the function.
“We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve the country,” he said. “We should be celebrating their willingness to step forward and show such courage.”
Obama also promised that, “You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognise relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman.”
Guest paid up to $1,000 to attend the event, which featured entertainment by Lady Gaga.
HRC President Joe Solmonese described the occasion as an “historic night”, adding that “…we felt the full embrace and commitment of the President of the United States. It’s simply unprecedented.”
Critics, however, noted that Obama said nothing he had not said before and that he failed to commit his administration to any deadlines by which to fulfil his promises.
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said that “an opportunity was missed tonight.”
He added: “The 65,000 gay and lesbian service members – who put their lives on the line and who remain impatient with the pace of progress – deserve to know when their commander in chief and Congress plan on getting rid of this law.”