Gay Rights Activists Protest Obama Fundraiser, Lash Out at White House

GetEqual protests President Obama's appearance in Miami on Oct. 11, 2010. http://www.facebook.com/getequal

GetEqual protests President Obama's appearance in Miami on Oct. 11, 2010.
http://www.facebook.com/getequal

Updated at 4:55 p.m. ET to note the DOJ will appeal the DOMA ruling.

With three weeks left until election day, it's highly unlikely Democrats in Washington will take up any gay rights issues before there is a new balance of power in the capitol. Gay rights activists, however, are intent on reminding President Obama and his party that they're not satisfied with what's been accomplished so far.

The president was attending a Democratic fundraiser in Miami last night, held in the back yard of NBA star Alonzo Mourning's 12,000-square-foot mansion, when air horns could be heard blaring across the water, according to pool reports of the event. The noise was reportedly not loud enough to disrupt the event, but the Democrats took notice.

The gay rights group GetEqual last night dispatched boats into into the bay adjacent to Mourning's home -- equipped with bullhorns, loudspeakers, weather balloons with signs, and large banners -- to get the president's attention. They said the demonstration was in protest of Mr. Obama's "failure to sign an executive order barring gay and lesbian servicemembers from being discharged under the military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law," according to the group's press release.

Gay rights advocates also in recent days unleashed a torrent of criticism aimed after the administration after White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett on Saturday spoke at the annual national dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights lobbying group largely supportive of the president. Jarrett addressed a recent string of suicides among gay youth and reminded the audience of the president's commitment to ending "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) and repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

"We have to keep fighting together. We must not lose hope," Jarrett said. "You are living proof of what has become a powerful message in recent days. Simply put: 'It gets better.'" Her remarks were posted to the White House blog in an entry entitled, "It Gets Better."

The phrase "it gets better" referenced a campaign, started by openly gay author and sex columnist Dan Savage, called "It Gets Better," aimed at raising the morale of gay youth.

Savage lashed out at the White House in a profanity-laced blog post for adopting his message without any results on gay rights advocates' two signature issues.

"F*** you, you pack of co-opting cowards," he wrote. "You can do a more than offer hope. You have the power to make it better. Right now." He said the White House should immediately suspend enforcement of DADT. The administration wants the repeal to occur legislatively, after reviewing a Pentagon study on the matter.

Savage also suggested the White House should stop defending DOMA in court. In July, a district judge ruled that the law is unconstitutional, and the Justice Department is expected to announce today whether it will appeal the ruling. Mr. Obama's Justice Department defended the law initially, even though it made clear it does not support it.

Prominent gay rights blogger John Aravosis of Americablog also took Jarrett to task for lifting Savage's "it gets better" slogan without results, calling it "distasteful."

"The President who repeatedly promised to be our 'fierce advocate' has been pretty much business as usual," he wrote. "He pays lip service to our civil rights, but doesn't seem terribly interested in spending any political capital to help make them a reality... When exactly is it going to get better, Valerie? 2017?"

Ahead of the event, Servicemembers United, the nation's largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, also decried Jarrett's speech.

"We certainly do not feel like the White House is a 'strong supporter' of gay and lesbian troops and veterans right now," Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United said in a statement. "Before Jarrett appears at a black-tie fundraiser to tout the administration's 'strong support,' she should meet and talk with those who have actually been impacted by this discriminatory law and who continue to fight this uphill battle for the lives and livelihoods of gay and lesbian troops."

UPDATE: The Justice Department announced today it will appeal the Massachusetts ruling striking down DOMA.

In related news, a federal judge this afternoon issued a worldwide injunction stopping enforcement of DADT. The Justice Department has 60 days to decide whether to appeal this ruling.



Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now