Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama at HRC dinner: "I will end 'don't ask don't tell"; and an impassioned call for individual rights

President Barack Obama urged Congress to pass all of his initiatives ending discrimination against gays and lesbians in his 20-minute speech that started at 8:10 PM tonight at the Human Rights Campaign Annual Dinner at the Washington Convention Center.

The president opened his speech with a reference to “old arguments” that were used to deny gays and lesbians their rights. He seemed to be noting the existential (as well as conventionally religious) nature of some arguments circulating on the Web today about the notion that the “family” should be the focus of identity rather than the individual, contradicting progressive ideas of equality on an individual level.

The largest single announcement was the passing of the Hate Crimes bill in the House, which the president says has taken ten years, ever since Matthew Shepard was beaten to death near Laramie Wyoming eleven years ago this month.

I will end ‘don’t ask don’t tell’, and that's my commitment to you", the president promised shortly thereafter, with some defiance. However the Whitehouse says that it takes an act of Congress (as introduced as part of the Military Readiness Act); that an executive order alone does not work legally (others say that it would). The president was critical of attitudes that question the fitness of soldiers performing bravely in theaters in Iraq and Afghanistan, when we need them.

The president also noted that LGBT Americans are affected by all the major issues and noted that many LGBT people write and work in major policy issues outside of “gay rights” itself.

Toward the end of the speech, the president encouraged Congress to repeal DOMA and said that gay and lesbian couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples, but stopped short of using the term “gay marriage.”

The president told the story of the founding of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) by a mother of a young man arrested in 1969 at the Stonewall riots. When the police called her qt 1 AM that June 1969 morning, she asked “Why are you bothering him?”

The president also discussed reinventing the Ryan White initiative.

Joe Solmonese gave the introduction, also carried on C-SPAN, in which he discussed some of the unfortunate rhetoric in opposition to some of the president’s progressive initiatives.

Here is the C-SPAN link for the speech (no embed code offered).

CNN has the videos now:

Here's the complete HRC Backstory link for the speech with all other CNN embeds.

Earlier today, some "joggers in red" decorated the Mall in advance of the Equality March Sunday, as I headed up to the Solar Decathlon. Even Landmark E-Street today seemed to gather a crowd in anticipation of tomorrow.

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