President Barack Obama cited the repeal of the ban on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers as his administration’s most important LGBT-specific accomplishments at a private fundraiser in Washington, D.C., on Thursday night that raised $1.4 million for his re-election campaign.
“The perception was somehow that this would be this huge, ugly issue,” Obama told 40 people who gathered at Karen Dixon and Dr. Nan Schaffer’s home in Northwest. “But because we did it methodically, because we brought the Pentagon in, because we got some very heroic support from people like [former Defense Secretary] Bob Gates and [retired Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm.] Mike Mullen, and they thought through institutionally how to do it effectively–since it happened, nothing’s happened.”
The president further stressed that the end of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ has had no adverse impact on the military since the repeal of the Clinton-era policy became official last September.
“We still have the best military by far on Earth,” said Obama. “There hasn’t been any notion of erosion and unit cohesion. It turns out that people just want to know, are you a good soldier, are you a good sailor, are you a good airman, are you a good Marine, good Coast Guardsman. That’s what they’re concerned about. Do you do your job? Do you do your job well?”
Obama acknowledged Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as he pointed to his April 2010 executive order that mandated all hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding must offer visitation rights to same-sex couples. The president further noted the extension of domestic partner benefits to State Department and federal employees in his remarks.
“What’s been striking over the course of these last three years is because we’ve rooted this work in this concept of fairness, and we haven’t gone out of our way to grab credit for it,” said Obama. “We haven’t gone out of our way to call other folks names if they didn’t always agree with us on stuff, but we just kept plodding along–because of that, in some ways what’s been remarkable is how readily the public recognizes this is the right thing to do.”
The president conceded that more needs be done to ensure full equality for LGBT Americans. An increasingly vocal group of activists and bloggers are critical of Obama for not publicly supporting marriage for gays and lesbians. Others continue to call upon the president to issue an executive order that would ban employment discrimination based upon a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.
“There’s still areas where fairness is not the rule,” said Obama. “We’re going to have to keep on pushing in the same way–persistently, politely, listening to folks who don’t always agree with us, but sticking to our guns in terms of what our values are all about. What American values are all about.”