White House Reaching Out to Gay-Rights Groups

By Lindsey Ellerson

Apr 9, 2009 4:19pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: With a series of recent developments in gay rights — two states have legalized gay marriage just in the past week, with the pace quickening in several other states — we chatted with Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, today on ABCNews.com’s “Top Line.” Solmonese said he has full confidence in President Obama’s commitment to gay rights — a far cry from December, when he said in a Washington Post op-ed that he and others were “question[ing] the promises that Barack Obama made in his historic quest to be president.” Asked if he still wonders whether gay-rights groups were “misled,” Solmonese emphatically answered, “No.” He said his group has been having at least weekly conversations with the Obama White House. “I mean, I think that . . . we and I in particular have a responsibility to call the administration out when they do things that are hurtful to the community, and that certainly was in a very public way,” Solmonese said. “But, you know, every single week that this President has been in office we have been in conversations with them, not just about our legislative agenda, but about executive orders that the administration has the opportunity to implement — and they are intending to implement a number of them — about the appointments process, about a whole range of issues that are important to our community. And they’ve been not just responsive, but at often times proactive in reaching out to us on issues.” Solmonese called it a “coincidence” that Iowa and Vermont moved to legalize gay marriage within days of each other; in Iowa, it happened via court order, while Vermont became the first state where a legislative body made same-sex marriage legal. But the flurry of activity will embolden other states to act more quickly, he added. “A bit of coincidence in terms of timing, but you know, what it says to me [is] states like New York where, you know, Christine Quinn and the City Council there clearly is ready to go.  New Jersey and New Hampshire, you know, I think this is really gonna inspire states like that who are poised to move marriage legislatively to in fact do it.” Congress and the White House could wind up having to weigh in on the District of Columbia’s City Council vote this week to recognize gay marriages performed in other states. “I think what they’re going to do is they’re going to see how Congress reacts,” Solmonese said. “Now, you know, the sense is that Congress won’t, you know, sort of punish DC for doing this, the Democratically controlled Congress — I certainly hope that’s the case. And then I would suspect that the President would sign whatever bill this becomes a part of.  But don’t forget, President Obama has said that he personally does not support marriage, that it is a matter left to the states, but he has no intention of standing in the way of the states’ movement towards marriage.” Watch our interview with Solmonese HERE. Also on today’s program, we chatted with Politico’s Jonathan Martin about the president’s foreign trip, the emerging immigration debate, and tonight’s White House Passover Seder — the first such event that a sitting president will participate in. Watch our interview with Martin HERE.

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