President Barack Obama marked Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month Friday by inviting activists and leaders to the White House for a reception. The commemoration came the same day the Pentagon saluted LGBT troops for the first time, a major step forward for the community as a whole.
"As long as I have the privilege of being your President, I promise you, you won't just have a friend in the White House, you will have a fellow advocate for an America where no matter what you look like or where you come from or who you love, you can dream big dreams and dream as openly as you want," the president told the assembled LGBT activists.
Making reference to his decision, seen as late by many in the LGBT community, to support same-sex marriage legalization, the president said, "I've said before that I would never counsel patience...After decades of inaction and indifference, you have every reason and right to push, loudly and forcefully, for equality."
"But three years ago, I also promised you this: I said that even if it took more time than we would like, we would see progress, we would see success, we would see real and lasting change. And together, that's what we're witnessing."
The reception came the same day as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta saluted LGBT troops serving in the U.S. armed forces for the first time, marking a significant shift in the Pentagon's treatment of gay troops since the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) in 2010.
"Before the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' you faithfully served your country with professionalism and courage," Panetta said in a video message Friday. "And just like your fellow service members, you put your country before yourself. And now - after repeal, you can be proud of serving your country, and be proud of who you are when in uniform."
Panetta echoed the president's message of moving forward with additional measures to ensure equality for LGBT Americans, saying "I remain committed to removing as many barriers as possible to make America's military a model of equal opportunity."
The repeal of DADT and the president's support for same-sex marriage have been the hallmark successes of his LGBT policy platform. However, the president also highlighted other strides made toward equality during his Friday speech.
These included implementing his National HIV/AIDS strategy, banning health insurance discrimination for LGBT Americans, expanding benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees, fighting against the Defense of Marriage Act and espousing "gay rights are human rights" in foreign policy. But the president did not shy away from admitting more needed to be done.
"We still have a long way to go, but we will get there...We'll get there because of every man and woman and activist and ally who is moving us forward by the force of their moral arguments, but more importantly, by the force of their example."
by RTT Staff Writer
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