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Obama Tells LGBT Crowd he Opposes Discrimination: 'I Was Born That Way'

Obama Tells LGBT Crowd he Opposes Discrimination: 'I Was Born That Way'

President Barack Obama traveled to New York on Thursday for several fund-raisers with LGBT donors where he celebrated his accomplishments to date but stopped short of an endorsement for marriage equality before asking for more support.

President Barack Obama traveled to New York on Thursday for several fund-raisers with LGBT donors where he celebrated his accomplishments to date but stopped short of an endorsement for marriage equality before asking for more support.

During his speech at the $1,250-a-plate Democratic National Committee LGBT Leadership gala in Midtown Manhattan, Obama said that he believes “that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country,” but he did not explicitly say that marriage is one of those fundamental rights.

In the appearance before LGBT donors, Obama spoke to some 600 people, where he received a warm reception for work toward repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, issuing the directive not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, hospital visitation rights, a comprehensive AIDS strategy, and appointing the first openly transgender person to federal office, which received the loudest applause.

The president was introduced by Jonathan Hopkins, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and by host Neil Patrick Harris, whom Obama jokingly called “openly terrific.”

Obama took the stage and spent more than 10 minutes discussing items in the economy, education and foreign policy before he pivoted to LGBT themes as he declared, “We’re all created equal.”

“Ever since I had a memory about what my mother taught me, and my grandparents taught me, I believed that discriminating against people was wrong,” said Obama. “I had no choice, I was born that way. In Hawaii.”

Multiple times during his speech, shouts of “marriage!” interrupted the president, whose visit coincided with deliberations in the New York state Senate about a marriage equality bill.

“Believe it or not, I anticipated that,” said Obama, who positioned his answer in terms of states’ rights.

“And right now I understand there’s a little debate going on here in New York --about whether to join five other states and D.C. in allowing civil marriage for gay couples,” he said. “And I want to -- I want to say that under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, with the support of Democrats and Republicans, New York is doing exactly what democracies are supposed to do. There’s a debate; there’s deliberation about what it means here in New York to treat people fairly in the eyes of the law,” he said.

Obama said that the debate in the New York legislature on marriage equality represented “the power of the democratic system.”

Acknowledging that there would be “impatience” with him at times, Obama mentioned a teenager from a small town who came out to him in a letter last year. The president said he was “confident that we will achieve the equality that this young person deserves,” but he said that it would take time, and include “setbacks.”

Obama closed with an appeal for LGBT support in his re-election bid.

“And with your help, if you keep up the fight, and if you will devote your time and your energies to this campaign one more time, I promise you we will write another chapter in that story,” he said.

 

Watch part of the President's speech below:

 

 

Check out Advocate.com for photos of the event.

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Julie Bolcer