Obama to give keynote address at gay rights dinner

Obama will be the second US president to speak before the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay rights organization.

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The gay rights community hasn’t been all that thrilled with President Obama since he took office. Despite campaign promises, he hasn’t reversed the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prevents gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. He also hasn’t moved to repeal the 1993 Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that allows states not to recognize gay marriages.

Now, the White House has announced, Mr. Obama will deliver the keynote address at the annual dinner Saturday of the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay rights organization. This will be the second time a US president has addressed the HRC. The first was Bill Clinton in 1997. Then-vice presidential nominee Joe Biden was to address the group a year ago, but canceled when his mother-in-law passed away.

The HRC also plans to honor the late Sen. Edward Kennedy on Saturday. In a statement, HRC President Joe Solmonese drew the connection between Obama and Kennedy.

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“It is fitting that he will speak to our community on the night that we pay tribute to his friend and mentor Senator Edward Kennedy, who knew that as president, Barack Obama would take on the unfinished business of this nation – equal rights for the LGBT [lesbian gay bisexual transgender] community, and for every person who believes in liberty and justice for all,” Mr. Solmonese said.

He could also have added: “Hint hint.”

Top military advisers to Obama are often asked when he will move to lift “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The military continues to discharge openly homosexual members.

On Sunday, Obama’s national security adviser, James Jones, was asked about “don’t ask” on CNN. His response: Obama “has an awful lot on his desk…. The Defense Department is doing the things it has to do to prepare, but at the right time, I'm sure the president will take it on."

Talking timing, Mr. Jones also said “it’s not years, but I think it will be teed up appropriately.”

In June, Obama held a reception at the White House for gay rights leaders in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969, seen as the start of the gay-rights movement.

Obama offered reassurance to the frustrated activists. “I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration,” he said.

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