By Kenneth R. Bazinet
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON – President Obama launches a fence-mending offensive today with a deep-pocketed and well-organized gay and lesbian community divided over whether the White House is moving fast enough to keep its campaign promises to fight for gay rights. Obama invited hundreds of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to a first-of-its-kind East Room reception marking the 40th anniversary of the start of the gay rights movement.
"To me, today’s event is more than just a reception honoring LGBT Pride Month," said Brian Bond, the openly gay deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement in a message posted on the White House blog. "It is an opportunity for the Administration to provide the world with a snapshot of the real heroes across the country that do the day-to-day work fighting for equality," Bond added.
But the gathering also comes as many in the gay community are angered over seeing little movement toward doing away with the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy, or the Defense Of Marriage Act which says states don’t have to recognize same-sex marriages consummated in other states.
Obama plans to tell the group his administration is currently working on an effort to repeal DOMA. But there is still much anger among many in the gay and lesbian community over the language Obama’s Justice Department used in a legal brief filed this month in support of the act. The Justice brief argued that DOMA should remain in force because heterosexual marriages are the "traditional and universally recognized form of marriage."
New York Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is attending the Obama event, called the Justice Department’s legal brief "inexcusable," but said she is confident Obama’s top legal minds are working on legislation to repeal DOMA. "I take President Obama and his administration at their word," Quinn told the Daily News. "If he says he is working to reverse DOMA, I believe him."
Polls show Obama received the support of more than 70% of openly gay and lesbian voters in the presidential election.