WASHINGTON -- First lady Michelle Obama threatened to leave a nighttime fundraiser unless a protester quit interrupting her speech.
Mrs. Obama was speaking Tuesday evening at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Washington. According to a pool report from a reporter who attended the event, an audience member started shouting in support of an executive order on gay rights halfway through Mrs. Obama's remarks.
Mrs. Obama moved toward the protester and said the person would either, quote, "listen to me or you can take the mic, but I'm leaving."
The crowd started shouting for Mrs. Obama to stay. The protester was then escorted out of the event.
Here's the news release from GetEQUAL, the group that organized the protest:
LGBT Activists Press for Employment Protections at DNC Event
After Years of Unfulfilled Promises, LGBT Community Needs Workplace Equality
WASHINGTON, DC -- Tuesday evening at a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee, organizers with GetEQUAL -- a national social justice organization fighting for the full equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans -- confronted two speakers at the event, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and First Lady Michelle Obama.
The organizers were advocating for action from the Obama Administration to sign a long-promised Executive Order that would bar any company that contracts with the federal government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Then-candidate Barack Obama promised while running for office in 2008 to sign such an order, but has not yet taken action (http://www.metroweekly.com/news/?ak=7139). A federal contractor Executive Order would protect approximately 22% of the American workforce from LGBT workplace discrimination, and has support from the LGBT advocacy community, as well as The New York Times, The Washington Post, 37 U.S. Senators, and 110 U.S. Representatives.
"I lived and worked in the closet, hiding who I was in order to earn a living," said Ellen Sturtz, who interacted with the First Lady tonight. "I had planned to speak tonight with DNC officials but, as the First Lady was talking about our childrens' future and ensuring that they have everything they need to live happy and productive lives, I simply couldn't stay silent any longer. I'm looking ahead at a generation of young people who could live full, honest, and open lives with the stroke of the President's pen, and I was hoping that the First Lady would share my concern for all of our young people."
Activists interacted with the First Lady tonight after lobbying President Obama directly over the past year to sign the federal contractor Executive Order. The First Lady employed similar tactics when she was a law student, advocating for causes close to her heart: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/02/16/barack-s-rock.html.
One year ago a similar event was held by the DNC and -- following vocal frustration from the LGBT community about delays from the Obama Administration on the Executive Order -- DNC Treasurer Andy Tobias suggested that advocates wait a year to push for it (http://www.advocate.com/politics/commentary/2012/04/24/oped-choosing-safest-path-enda). That year has come and gone, and the Executive Order has still not emerged as a priority for the Obama Administration.
Recent research has found that LGBT workers have a difficult time finding and keeping a job because there are no federal protections in place to ensure that employers cannot discriminate in the hiring, employment, and firing process: http://lgbtmap.org/a-broken-bargain-full-report. Because the Obama Administration has refused to take action on an Executive Order that would help address these problems, some LGBT donors have cut off funds to the party in recent weeks: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/29/us-usa-immigration-gays-idUSBRE94S1H620130529.
Also in attendance tonight were three additional GetEQUAL activists, all youth whose job opportunities are limited to the 16 states that currently offer workplace protections for LGBT workers: Wooten Gough, of Yadkinville, NC; Autumn Leaf, of Columbus, OH; and Amy Vesper, of Albuquerque, NM. Autumn Leaf was also able to interact during the fundraiser with DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, raising questions about the Democratic Party's commitment to passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act -- a piece of legislation recently re-introduced in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate that would offer LGBT workplace protections for all American workers. This legislation has been languishing in Congress for 39 years.