Politics & Media
Jun 26, 2009, 12:05PM

Biden Reaches Out to the Gay Community

"I don't blame you for your impatience. I hope you don't doubt the President's commitment."

Vice President Joe Biden told gay and lesbian Democrats that he doesn't blame them for their impatience and promised that the Obama administration will begin to push more strongly on the issues they care about, including the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Speaking at a LGBT fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee, Biden acknowledged the anger many gays and lesbians have toward the White House, and he pledged to "put some pace on the ball." "I don't blame you for your impatience," Biden said. "I hope you don't doubt the president's commitment."The vice president spent 20 minutes trying to convince the donors inside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel that President Barack Obama is dedicated to following through on his campaign promises. He said he had asked to give the speech at the annual leadership dinner Thursday night, and he read from a TelePrompter. "I am not unaware of the controversy swirling around this dinner and swirling around the speed or lack thereof that we are moving on issues that are of great importance to you," Biden said.Outside the hotel about 50 protesters held up signs chastising participants — which included all three gay members of Congress, Reps. Tammy Baldwin, Barney Frank and Jared Polis — with sayings such as "Gay Uncle Toms."After Baldwin was heckled by the protesters for entering the event, she told the Advocate's White House reporter, Kerry Eleveld, that gays and lesbians "do feel an impatience and a frustration." But, she said, "I think it's really important that that be expressed both outside and inside."The annual dinner was boycotted by some prominent gay and lesbian donors, including the Stonewall Democratic Club, former Clinton backers David Mixner and Richard Socarides and Utah contributor Bruce Bastian. But it still netted about $1 million, according to a pool report, which is roughly 250,000 more than the event raised last year.Biden tried to shine the best light on Obama's record on gay and lesbian issues so far. He mentioned that the administration appointed 60 LGBT people, including nine that require Senate confirmation. He said that gay and lesbian concerns will not be "delayed, put off or not end up on [Obama's] plate" because he is dealing with so many other issues. Biden drew repeated standing ovations, according to a pool report, as he pledged the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the passage of the Lieberman-Baldwin bill on health benefits, a ban on workplace discrimination, adoption rights for all and an end to the HIV travel ban.Obama campaigned to repeal DADT, but the White House has said it's seeking congressional action on the policy, which bars openly gay men and women from serving in the military. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said last week that he is waiting for "a legislative proposal from the White House on repeal" to give the Senate clear guidance on what Obama wants and when.On Thursday, Biden said the administration is committed to "the unfinished business of true equality.""I promise you with your help we'll get there in this administration," he said, going as far as to add that if the country achieves gender equality, "I will have marked my term as vice president as being truly worthwhile."


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