By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Although billed as a reception to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, the 1969 Greenwich Village demonstration that gave birth to the modern gay rights movement, President Barack Obama used the occasion to shore up his lagging support in the gay community by hosting an East Room reception for activists at the White House yesterday.
The reception was given little publicity but Shin Inouye, a White House spokesman, said the event was meant to “recognize the accomplishments of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) Americans.” Invited guests included families, volunteers and activists, and community leaders and “was long planned as a way to applaud these individuals during Pride month.”
According to The New York Times, gay leaders from around the country said they had received either telephone calls or written invitations from the White House and were told Mr. Obama is expected to speak. The invitation included an offer to bring a guest because “they want people to understand that their partners are welcome,’’ said one invitee.
Even though the event was meant to be a celebration, gay activists have not hidden their displeasure with President Obama’s failure to keep his campaign promises to the LGBT community.
“What’s going to change the way the community is feeling is seeing the introduction of a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’’ said invitee, Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council, a Boston-based advocacy group. She said gay rights advocates want to see “a president who is fulfilling the promises he made on the campaign trail.’’
Ms. Chrisler, who was in the Oval Office last week for the signing of a memorandum that granted domestic partnership benefits to federal workers, said she was not satisfied by what she called the ‘’limited benefits’’ Obama offered. She said she hoped Monday’s reception would be “an opportunity for us as a community to highlight again to this president and this administration that real lives are impacted by his decisions.’’
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