WASHINGTON - Noting that the struggle against discrimination based on sexual orientation is “as old as America itself,” the President welcomed Members of Congress, community leaders, and activists – some of whom have led that struggle for decades – to the White House to commemorate LGBT Pride Month.
He began his remarks with shout-outs to some of the top openly gay White House officials in attendance, including CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley, Director of the Office of Personnel Management John Berry, and chair of the Export/Import Bank Fred Hochberg.
Discussing progress made under his administration so far, the President began with a Presidential Memorandum signed earlier this month extending benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees, and promised to work to change the law “to continue to fight to change the law: to guarantee gay federal employees the exact same benefits as straight employees -– including access to health insurance and retirement plans.”
He then discussed perhaps the biggest change on the way:
And finally, we’re going to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. (Applause.) That is a promise I made as a candidate. It is a promise that I reiterated as President. It’s one that this administration is going to keep. Now, the only way to lock this in -– the only way to get the votes in Congress to roll back this policy -- is if we work with the Pentagon, who are in the midst of two wars.
And that’s why we were gratified to see, for the first time ever, the Secretary of Defense, Bob Gates, testify in favor of repeal. And the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, has repeatedly and passionately argued for allowing gay men and women to serve honestly in the military. (Applause.) We know that forcing gay and lesbian soldiers to live a lie or to leave the military, that doesn’t contribute to our security -- it harms our security.
And thanks to Patrick Murphy and others, for the first time in history, the House has passed a repeal that would allow gay men and women to openly serve in our armed forces. And this repeal is authored so that the Pentagon can complete its review of the policy -- which is critical, by the way, not only to passage, but it’s also critical to making sure that the change is accepted and implemented effectively. In the Senate, the Armed Services Committee has approved repeal for the first time, and the full body is poised to vote soon.
So here’s the bottom line: We have never been closer to ending this discriminatory policy. And I’m going to keep on fighting until that bill is on my desk and I can sign it. (Applause.)