In a move certain to rile conservatives and Black clergy, President Obama will appear before a major gay-rights group this weekend.
The president, whom many gay activists deemed the lesser of two evils between Democrat Obama and Republican John McCain during the last general election, will speak at the annual dinner of the Human Rights Campaign on Saturday, the White House has announced.
During the presidential campaign, neither Obama nor McCain advocated gay “marriage,” both agreeing that marriage was an institution reserved for a man and a woman. Both supported gay “unions” instead.
"We are honored to share this night with President Obama, who has called upon our nation to embrace LGBT people as brothers and sisters," said Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign, which calls itself "America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality."
Solmonese has been an outspoken critic of Obama, blasting the president for not standing against the anti-gay-marriage Defense of Marriage Act earlier this year and for inviting a staunch proponent of the act, Rev. Rick Warren, to deliver his inauguration prayer.
Conservatives and many members of Black clergy are among the most fervent critics of gay marriage.
Obama’s speech before the Human Rights Campaign falls one day before the National Equality March on Washington, where demonstrators will demand equal rights for gays, lesbians and transgendered people. The march is guaranteed to be chock full of Obama critics, still angry over his failure to see through his promise to stamp out the "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning gays in the military or to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.
"Eleven months after his election, he has failed to deliver on any of his commitments to gay Americans, but even worse has been his refusal to engage around these issues," Richard Socarides, an adviser to former President Bill Clinton on gay and lesbian policy, told The Associated Press.
Obama says he has a proud record regarding his support of gay rights. Don’t judge him on the “promises I've made but by the promises that my administration keeps," he says.
"I know that many in this room don't believe progress has come fast enough, and I understand that," he 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."
"We've been in office six months now," continued the president. "I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration."