Obama: We Need Stronger Laws to Protect Gays

Published June 30, 2009

President Obama, despite wide-ranging criticism that he has not kept his promises to gay Americans, honored Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month Monday with a White House reception where he called for full benefits for same-sex couples.

The president told the packed audience at the White House that health care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples and their children, bills to strengthen laws against hate crimes and prevent employment discrimination based on sexuality, are essential.

And, in a move that angers many African-American church leaders, Obama compared the struggle for gay and lesbian rights to that of Blacks during the turbulent ‘60s.

"I know that many in this room don't believe that progress has come fast enough, and I understand that," Obama said. "It's not for me to tell you to be patient any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African-Americans who were petitioning for equal rights a half-century ago."

He also suggested that the “don't-ask, don't-tell” military policy – which prevents military officials from asking about a service member's sexual orientation but also bars the service member from revealing it – is antiquated.

"I believe preventing patriotic Americans from serving their country weakens our national security," Obama said. "We have a duty to uphold existing law, but I believe we must do so in a way that does not exacerbate old divides," Obama said. "And fulfilling this duty in upholding the law in no way lessens my commitment to reversing this law."

Written by BET.com Staff

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