Pool report distributed by The White House of President Barack Obama's LGBT event at the Sheraton Hotel in New York:
POTUS at LGBT Event in Sheraton Hotel – Remarks were open to press; transcript to come. Bottom line: Despite some heckling on gay marriage, which POTUS said he expected, he did not break any new ground on gay marriage – apparently his position is still evolving. He mentioned the NY legislation pending in the State Senate, stalled by Republican opposition, but did not endorse it, only said it was right for states to debate the issue.
But he got off several pro-gay rights lines that got big applause. See below for good quotes, but check transcript. One woman in particular yelled out “Marriage!” repeatedly.
The reception was polite, the recitation of achievements got tepid applause.
About 600 donors, mostly male, sat at round tables in a large ballroom, typical type with backdrop of royal-blue drapes and 8 flags on polls, a 9th large one hanging to the side. Introduced by actor Neal Patrick Harris and Jonathan Hopkins, a veteran of three tours in Afghanistan with multiple medals who last year had to leave the service due to the DADT law.
Harris cited repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell, Obama’s directive not to defend DOMA, the administration’s anti-bullying initiative, lifting the HIV ban for entries into the country, comprehensive AIDS strategy, expanded family leave act, even the WH’s opposition to anti-gay legislation in Uganda. But the first and only enthusiastic applause was for his mention of POTUS making the first appointment of a transgender person to federal office.
Hopkins too gave a very enthusiastic introduction and he and POTUS embraced when POTUS took the stage.
POTUS opened with his usual recall of the celebratory election night in Grant Park, by way of segueing to the disappointment some of those supporters now feel that their change hasn’t come yet, or hasn’t come just as they expected. He went through the challenges of the first two years, and up to the present – big applause and standing ovation for getting Bin Laden.
Then, 13 minutes into his nearly 25-minute remarks, POTUS got to the part about gay rights. Said he’s always believed “Ever since I had a memory about what my mother taught me, and my grandparents taught me, I believed that discriminating against people was wrong. I had no choice, I was born that way. (Laughter) In Hawaii. (Laughter).”
He continued: “And I believed that discrimination because of somebody’s sexual orientation or gender identity ran counter to who we are as a people. It’s a violation of the basic tenets on which this nation was founded. I believe that gay couples deserve the same human rights as every other couple in this country.” Standing ovation, whoops and hollers of approval.
“Marriage!” the woman yelled out from the periphery of the room.
“I heard that. Believe it or not I anticipated that,” POTUS said.
After further clapping and hooting, he asked “Where was I?”
“Marriage!” the woman yelled again.
He finished by saying DOMA ought to be repealed and got big applause for that, for saying his attorney general “will no longer defend its constitutionality.” Segued to the NY bill – “Right now I understand there’s a little debate right here in New York.” Said “New York is doing exactly what democracies are supposed to do” -- debate and deliberate.
A heckler: “Do you support….”
Ignoring that, he mentioned passage of a hate-crimes law and DADT, and recalled that prior to each law’s achievement he’d been heckled at similar dinners in the past.
“We’ve made enormous advances just in these last two and a half years…”
“Say yes to marriage,” someone yelled.
Said “There will be setbacks along the way…not moving as fast as folks would like.” People should be “free to live and love as they see fit.”
Referred to past struggles in the gay community then said, “With your help, if you keep up the fight” and give your energy “to this campaign one more time, I promise you we will write another chapter in that story and we are going to lead a new generation to a brighter future and a more hopeful future.”
There was one last heckle: “Support gay marriage!” And he got a standing ovation nonetheless, then was off to the next fundraiser.