Obama's Delicate Dance with Lesbian, Gay Community

President and gay activists prepare to face off again over urgency of equality.

ByABC News
October 5, 2009, 3:48 PM

Oct. 6, 2009— -- As debates rage on health care, Afghanistan, and environmental policy, President Obama is about to take another step in his delicate dance with the country's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community -- a group that continues to demand more presidential involvement in issues that affect its members.

In what some gay rights activists call a "significant show of support," the president will deliver the keynote address Saturday at the annual gathering of the Human Rights Campaign -- the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization.

Obama will become only the second sitting president to address the HRC. Bill Clinton spoke to the group in 1997.

"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 Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese in a statement.

The speech will take place hours before thousands of gay-rights supporters are expected to descend on Washington to march in support of greater legal protections. It also comes after months of criticism by many prominent LGBT leaders -- who feel Obama has not kept the promises he made to advance equality.

"There are unjust laws to overturn and unfair practices to stop," Mr. Obama said at a LGBT event in the East Room in June.

Speaking then before a crowd of 200 prominent activists, the President outlined his support for overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, extending federal benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, and extending employment-discrimination and hate-crime protection to gays and lesbians. He also said the Defense Department's "don't ask, don't tell" policy works against America's national security.

"This struggle continues today, for even as we face extraordinary challenges as a nation, we cannot and will not put aside issues of basic equality," Obama said in June. "We seek an America in which no one feels the pain of discrimination based on who you are or who you love."

But during the first nine months of the Obama Presidency there has been limited action on those issues of "basic equality." Many gay activists say they are frustrated that their issues have had to wait.