“The price of my service was to live a lie,” Imbasciani said on the ballroom stage of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where his diminutive frame was barely visible behind the lectern that had been set up for the much-taller Obama. “I kept their existence secret because that’s what the law required.”
He paused, then added, prompting a roar from the crowd: “But not anymore.”
Obama took the stage next, offering his first public embrace to gay supporters since declaring his support for same-sex marriage in a widely promoted television interview last month.
Following remarks by comedian Ellen DeGeneres and a performance by “Glee” star Darren Criss, who plays a gay student on the Fox series, the president had to plead with the audience to sit down after a long and emotional ovation and chants of “Four more years!” Twin screens on each side of the stage displayed huge “Obama Pride” logos.
“The fight on behalf of the LGBT community is part of a broader fight on behalf of all Americans,” the president said. “It’s a part of a history of trying to make this union a bit more perfect.”
Obama touted a list of accomplishments that extend new protections to gays and lesbians, including the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” allowing hospital visitation for same-sex partnership and expanding federal hate-crimes law to include crimes motivated by sexual orientation.
Gay supporters have been a pillar of Obama’s fundraising strength; about one in six top Obama campaign “bundlers,” who amass contributions from others, is gay, according to a Washington Post analysis. But they also have been impatient with his self-described “evolution” on gay marriage. Wednesday represented Obama’s first major outreach to gay and lesbian supporters since he declared that he is now for gay marriage, and they received him enthusiastically.
The evening also featured a somewhat awkward moment for the president, who thanked “my wonderful friend,” DeGeneres, for her role in the program. Obama said DeGeneres “accepts a little bit of teasing about Michelle beating her in push-ups, but I think she claims Michelle didn’t go all the way down.”
The crowd heard a racy double-entendre and roared with laughter, and Obama--who showed no sign that he was going for a raunchy punchline--seemed thrown off. “That’s what I heard,” he finally said. “I just want to set the record straight: Michelle outdoes me in push-ups as well.”