President Obama spent a few hours rubbing elbows with wealthy supporters of homosexual rights Thursday night in New York, but stopped short of endorsing same-sex marriage, instead, calling for equal rights for gay couples.
The president’s comments were given as the New York Senate is one vote shy of legalizing same-sex marriage. The state’s Assembly passed the bill by a vote of 80-63 last week. As of this afternoon, supporters are still one vote shy of passage.
Obama spent the first half of his speech talking about typical issues such as jobs, the killing of Osama bin Laden and issues relating to the middle “class.” Although his aides continue to use the term “evolving” when they reference the president’s position on same-sex marriage, Obama stopped short of endorsing gay marriage.
“I believe that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights as every other couple in this country,” Obama told about 600 wealthy supporters.
Obama is often described as the most “gay-friendly president in history,” a phrase formally used to describe President Clinton, so many in the audience were looking for more.
“Do you support it?” was a question asked by some heckling the president during his speech. Others yelled, “Say yes to marriage!”
The president tried to lighten up the evening and some of those who expected more. “Ever since I entered into public life, ever since I have a memory about what my mother taught me, and my grandparents taught me, I believed that discriminating against people was wrong.” Obama said. “I had no choice, I was born that way, in Hawaii.”
Obama even talked about a letter he received from a homosexual teenager who is afraid to reveal their feelings, saying they could not “openly be myself.”
But understand this - look, I think of teenagers like the one who wrote me, and they remind me that there should be impatience when it comes to the fight for basic equality,” said Obama. “So, yes, we have more work to do.”
Several dozen protestors gathered outside the Sheraton New York encouraging the Obama to do more for gay rights. “We’re here to nudge the president forward with love, because he’s been an avid supporter of our cause, obviously, but he hasn’t gone far enough,” Queer Rising’s Todd Fernandez, told NY1, a local cable station.