President Obama on Thursday said the American public has proved remarkably supportive of his administration’s policies on gay rights as the “right thing to do.”
Appearing at a campaign fundraiser at a private residence in Northwest Washington, Obama hailed the end of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gay and lesbian service members as an example of how attitudes are becoming more tolerant.
“The perception was somehow that this would be this huge, ugly issue,” Obama told the crowd of 40 supporters at the home of Karen Dixon and Nan Schaffer.
But, he added, since his administration ended the policy “nothing’s happened” and there “hasn’t been any notion of erosion and unit cohesion.”
“In some ways,” Obama said, “what’s been remarkable is how readily the public recognizes this is the right thing to do.”
Obama called his work on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues “profoundly American” and declared what he “could not be prouder” of his administration’s track record.
Yet Obama has faced renewed questions in recent days about his own position on gay marriage in the wake of a federal appeals court ruling Tuesday that struck down California’s Prop 8 law that banned same-sex marriage.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said that Obama was pleased with the court’s decision because “divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights to same-sex couples is something this president has long opposed.”
But Carney said Obama’s position on gay marriage, which the president has described as “evolving” since campaigning for the White House, had not changed.
Obama did not address the Prop 8 ruling at the fundraiser, where he was introduced by Chicago Cubs owner Laura Ricketts, the first openly gay owner of a major-league baseball team.
She told the attendees, each of whom paid the maximum $35,800 allowed under federal campaign finance rules, that the event was being held “to show the president that the LGBT community stands strongly behind his reelection.”
“I know the president stands with us,” Ricketts said. (Obama, a Chicago White Sox fan, joked that the introduction was the best a Cubs fan had ever given him.)
Obama closed his remarks with an anecdote about working out at a military gym during his recent Hawaii vacation. While lifting weights, some Marines approached Obama to thank him for ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
“I didn’t even know whether they were gay or lesbian,” Obama recounted. “I didn’t ask — because that wasn’t the point. The point was these were outstanding Marines who appreciated the fact that everybody was going to be treated fairly.”