- (Photo: Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Michelle Obama was heckled by a gay rights activist at a recent Washington, D.C., fundraiser, leading to a face-to-face confrontation between the First Lady and the protester.
Obama was speaking at a Democratic Party fundraiser Tuesday when lesbian activist Ellen Sturtz interrupted her with a demand that President Barack Obama sign an anti-discrimination executive order. Obama was focusing on the topic of charity and benefits for inner city students when Sturtz heckled her.
"One of the things I don't do well is this," said Obama, with the audience cheering her in response before she encountered Sturtz.
According to a press pool report, Obama "left the lectern and moved over to the protester." The report quoted Obama as then saying: "Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I'm leaving. You all decide. You have one choice."
Many in the audience shouted for her to stay. According to reports, Sturtz was then escorted out of the facility by security.
An ardent supporter of LGBT issues and member of the LGBT group GetEQUAL, Sturtz's remarks directed at the First Lady were echoed on her Twitter profile.
"#WHChat I am a 55 year old lesbian. What is the President willing to do to make sure I have full federal equality before I die?" tweeted Sturtz in January 2012.
"#WHChat During this election season, is the President willing to respond immediately to the hate campaigns direct towards our community?"
The incident between Obama and Sturtz has gained headlines and amateur video showing Obama's speech up until the first outburst from Sturtz has been posted multiple times on YouTube.
According to Tracy Clayton of The Root, responses from social media show that most took the side of Obama.
"Perhaps sensing that the First Lady would no doubt be labeled an 'angry black woman' for responding the way most people would, black folks on Twitter tweeted their support," wrote Clayton.
On GetEQUAL's Facebook page, many individuals have also posted comments critical of Sturtz's actions. Some saw the move as misguided and counterproductive.
The incident comes as Congress debates the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that has been brought up in the past meant to expand anti-discrimination measures.
Reintroduced in late April, supporters for ENDA argue that the bill would criminalize hiring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity while exempting small businesses and religious organizations.
Opponents, however, argue that the religious exemptions in ENDA are insufficient to protect church businesses and that the proposed legislation simply forces businesses to accept homosexuality.