Does White House See Gays as "Left Fringe?"

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Updated 4:40 p.m. ET

Despite not yet having fulfilled his campaign promises to end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning gays from serving openly in the military or the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman, President Obama spoke to a largely supportive audience at the annual dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, the gay civil rights advocacy group, on Saturday night.

But at a march for equality the next day organized by a younger generation critical of the HRC and other established gay rights organizations, gay activists signaled that their patience with the president has grown thin.

Not long after the march ended, NBC News' John Harwood reported that the White House is not terribly bothered about the criticism coming from gay rights groups. Citing an Obama administration adviser, Harwood said because the president is "doing well with 90 percent or more of Democrats," the White House "views this opposition as really part of the Internet left fringe."

Harwood added that the White House believes that its opposition from the left, including bloggers, "need to take off the pajamas, get dressed, and realize that governing a closely divided country is complicated and difficult."

The report inflamed bloggers and once again spotlighted the tension between the march organizers, who railed against "incrementalism" in the equal rights movement, and the establishment HRC, where the president was hailed Saturday as the best friend gays have ever had in the White House.

"So the gay community, and its concerns about President Obama's inaction, and backtracking, on DADT and DOMA, are now, according to President Obama's White House, part of a larger 'fringe' that acts like small children who play in their pajamas and need to grow up…" wrote gay activist John Aravosis on Americablog. "I wonder how the Human Rights Campaign is going to explain how the White House just knifed our community less than 24 hours after he went to their dinner and claimed he was our friend."

On Monday afternoon, the White House disavowed the report, saying the administration does not see gay critics are part of an "Internet left fringe."

"That sentiment does not reflect White House thinking at all, we've held easily a dozen calls with the progressive online community because we believe the online communities can often keep the focus on how policy will affect the American people rather than just the political back-and-forth," White House senior communications adviser Dan Pfeiffer said in an emailed statement to The Plum Line.

One of critics' complaints about the president's speech Saturday was that while he reiterated his opposition to repealing "don't ask, don't tell," he did not provide a timeline for repealing it. The White House has said repeatedly that it is working with the military and Congress to roll back the policy, but there has been little evidence that the process was moving forward.

On the front, gay activists got some potentially good news Sunday: As the Wall Street Journal reports, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that it had become possible "to get a buy-in from the military" to end the policy.

Speakers at the march Sunday included Cleve Jones, Matthew Shepard's mother Judy, the NAACP's Julian Bond, Lady Gaga and Lt. Dan Choi. (Click here to watch the speeches.)

"A free and equal people do not tolerate prioritization of their rights," said Jones, one of the march organizers. "They do not accept compromises. They do not accept delays. And when we see leaders, and those who represent us, saying 'you must wait again,' we say no! no! no longer will we wait!"

Rep. Barney Frank, the powerful and gay House Democrat, has been dismissive of the organizers' efforts, saying they provided little more than "emotional satisfaction." He has noted that the powerful National Rifle Association spends its time and money pressuring politicians, not holding marchers. The only thing the march is going to put pressure on, Frank predicted, "is the grass."

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