Just hours after he declined to answer questions about his position on gay marriage, President Obama declared tonight “I’ve met my commitments to the LGBT community.”
“I have delivered on what I promised,” the president said at an LGBT pride event at the White House this evening, noting “that doesn’t mean our work is done.”
Obama pointed to his record of support for the gay and lesbian community, highlighting, among other things, his repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which banned openly gay men and women from serving in the military, and his decision to withdraw legal support for the Defense of Marriage Act, which banned federal recognition of same-sex unions.
Despite the progress made, for some in the East Room tonight it is still not enough.
The president has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks to define his position on gay marriage, which he has previously described as "evolving." Author and pundit Dan Savage, of Savage Love fame, was spotted at the event wearing a button that read "evolve already," a blatant jab at the president.
Obama supports civil unions but believes the issue of same-sex marriage should be left up to the state.
At his press conference earlier today, the president said he was “not going to make news” on the issue, but said that the decision in New York to legalize gay marriage was “a good thing.”
The president admitted tonight that “there are gonna be times when you’re still frustrated with me. I know there are gonna be times where you’re still frustrated with the pace of change."
Obama's reluctance to embrace gay marriage may be part of a broader effort to avoid alienating voters in battleground states, like Ohio and Nevada, where majorities have traditionally shown less support for the unions than voters overall.
Several state that Obama carried in 2008 but that are expected to be close calls in the upcoming election have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, including Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia.
Going forward, the president said he would continue to "fight" for the interests of the LGBT community, not just only an advocate, but as an American.
“You are moms and dads that care about the schools that your children go to. You are students who are trying to figure out how to pay for going to college. You are folks who are looking for good jobs to pay the bills. You are Americans who want this country to prosper. So those are your fights too,” he said.
“The bottom line is I am hopeful,” Obama said. “What gives me hope is a deeper shift that we’re seeing, that’s a transformation, not only in our laws, but in our hearts and minds too. Progress led not by Washington, but by ordinary citizens, propelled not by policy, but by love and friendship and sense of mutual regard and mutual respect. It's playing out in legislatures like New York," the president said, as he was interrupted by applause from the audience. "It's playing out in the ballot box, as people argue and debate over how to bring about the changes where we are creating a more perfect union."