Vice President Joe Biden embraces Columbia, S.C.’s Harriet Hancock.
Photo Credit: Ryan Wilson.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Advocates from an array of LGBT community organizations in North and South Carolina attended the White House’s Pride Month reception on Wednesday.
President Barack Obama hosted the event with Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden. Among the 300-some attendees were five Palmetto State leaders including Harriet Hancock, founder of the Harriet Hancock LGBT Community Center; Ryan Wilson, former president of SC Pride; Dr. Todd Shaw, president of South Carolina Black Pride; Katasha Davis, secretary of South Carolina Black Pride; Nekki Shutt, a member of the SC Equality Board of Directors; and SC Equality Chair Dean Pierce. Hancock was also among 12 reception attendees who met with the president privately before the event.
Addison Ore, executive director of the Greensboro, N.C.,-based Triad Health Project also attended.
The Carolinas leaders were among high-profile reception attendees including Obama Administration officials like Director of the Office of Personnel Management John Berry, the highest-ranking, openly gay or lesbian official in the administration. Other attendees included Courage Campaign Chair Rick Jacobs, former U.S. Army Capt. Sue Fulton, Arizona LGBT youth advocate Caleb Laieski and others.
The president spoke for a short nine minutes, running down his list of accomplishments on a variety of LGBT issues including hospital visitation, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and his administration’s decision to stop defending the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.
Yet, Obama said he understood the frustration of many in the LGBT community, who feel the pace of accomplishments hasn’t been fast enough.
“I know I can count on you to let me know,” Obama said. “This is not a shy group.”
Columnist and author Dan Savage, founder of the It Gets Better Project, was also in attendance. He wore a small button that said, “evolve already,” a recent movement phrase spawned from Obama’s continued opposition to full marriage equality.
“I believe the president should evolve,” Savage said. “He says he’s evolving, I believe him.”
He added, “I want to hurry him along.”
Other LGBT advocates, however, feel as though Obama’s commitment to LGBT equality has been strong. Gregory King, a spokesman for AFSCME and a former spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, said Obama had done more for the LGBT community than any other president in history.
“He’s been effective at bringing change and ending discrimination,” King said.
Regarding marriage equality, “I know many couples who wouldn’t place that at the top of the agenda,” King said.
Savage said the LGBT community should continue to push the president, describing Obama’s politics as “the art of the possible.”
“We need to keep the pressure on and take ‘yes’ for an answer,” Savage said, though he cautioned: “I’m not one of the gay activists furious at the president because he’s not out on the furthest limb” on gay marriage, he said.
During the reception, Obama said he hoped he would be judged by the promises he has kept.
“It was here, in the East Room, at our first Pride reception, on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a few months after I took office, that I made a pledge, I made a commitment,” the president said. “I said that I would never counsel patience; it wasn’t right for me to tell you to be patient any more than it was right for folks to tell African Americans to be patient in terms of their freedoms. I said it might take time to get everything we wanted done. But I also expected to be judged not by the promises I made, but the promises I kept.”
On the Defense of Marriage Act, Obama added, “The law is discriminatory. It violates the Constitution. It’s time for us to bring it to an end.” : :
— White House pool reporter Julie Mason of Politico contributed.