I am not gay, and even though I have a deep personal interest in the status of the LGBT community [my son, Tobias, is gay, and I long for the day when I can attend his wedding], I think I need to exhibit a certain restraint and circumspection in offering my judgment about Obama's speech to the Human Rights Campaign meeting in Washington. That said, I would like to explain why I think the speech was an extremely important positive moment in the long struggle for LGBT equality.
Both by his choice of words and by his choice of venue, Obama, in that speech, put the full faith and credit of the presidency behind the agenda of the LGBT community. Many of the specific items on the agenda -- most notably the repeal of DADT and DOMA -- will require congressional action, and that, as is made obvious by the current health care reform battle, is going to be complex and messy. But I think Obama deliberately and knowingly backed himself into a corner with that speech. He made it impossible for him NOT to fulfill those promises without totally alienating one of his strongest sources of political support. Presidents do not do that unless they fully intend to come through.
How should the LGBT community and its supporters respond? Obama had an answer, and it was the correct answer -- by putting even more pressure on him and on Congress to accomplish everything on their agenda. In every possible way, during his campaign, Obama made it clear that he believes change requires bottom-up pressure, not top-down largesse. The ball is in our court.