Big Story: White House Sounds Off on LGBT Rights

The big story of the past week compiled by Jillian Melero

Obama: Religious Freedom No Excuse to Deny Rights to Others

(AP) Freedom of religion isn't reason enough to deny any American their constitutional rights, President Barack Obama said Sunday as he addressed members of the LGBT community, one of his major sources of political and financial support.

Speaking at a Democratic Party fundraiser, Obama said it's important to recognize that some parts of the country remain uncomfortable with same-sex marriage and that it will take time for them to catch up to the majority of Americans who support such unions.

"We affirm that we cherish our religious freedom and are profoundly respectful of religious traditions," Obama said during remarks that were interrupted by repeated applause and cheers. "But we also have to say clearly that our religious freedom doesn't grant us the freedom to deny our fellow Americans their constitutional rights."

"And that even as we are respectful and accommodating genuine concerns and interests of religious institutions, we need to reject politicians who are supporting new forms of discrimination as a way to scare up votes. That's not how we move America forward," he added.

He noted that everyone in the U.S., regardless of sexual orientation, is protected by a federal hate crimes law he signed in his first year as president, and that federal contractors are barred from terminating employees for being gay.

“We live in an America where 'don't ask, don't tell' is something that 'don't exist.'" Obama lifted the Pentagon policy that barred gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

"And tonight, thanks to the unbending sense of justice passed down through generations of citizens who never gave up hope that we could bring this country closer to our founding ideals ... we now live in America where our marriages are equal as well," he said.

Obama Rips Republican Candidates on Gay Marriage

(CNN) -- President Obama on Sunday dismissed Republicans opposed to same-sex marriage as ‎living in another era, saying the national conversation had moved beyond whether gays and lesbians deserve equal marriage rights.

And he lambasted statements made by GOP candidates as woefully out-of-touch with reality.

"One of their leading candidates argued that going to prison turns you gay," Obama said, an apparent reference to Ben Carson, who had claimed that homosexuality in prison is proof that being gay is a choice.

"I'm just stating the facts," Obama continued. "Another candidate boasts that he introduced an amendment to end nationwide marriage equality. One said he loves the Constitution except for Article 3."

The President said that "America has left the leaders of the Republican Party behind."

"We need to reject politicians who are supporting new forms of discrimination as a way to scare up votes," he added. "That's not how we move America forward."

During the event at Gotham Hall, which Democratic donors paid upwards of $33,400 to attend, Obama claimed Republican presidential contenders were pining for an era of economic failure.

"In their world, everything was terrific back in 2008 when we were in the midst of a spiral into the worst financial crisis and economic crisis since the Great Depression, when unemployment and uninsured rates were rising and when our economy was shedding jobs each month, and we were mired in two wars, hopelessly addicted to foreign oil, and bin Laden was still at large," he said.

"Those were the Golden Years, apparently.‎"

Biden to Deliver Keynote Address at Star-Studded HRC Dinner

(HRC) The Human Rights Campaign announced Friday Vice President Joe Biden will deliver the keynote address at the 19th annual HRC National Dinner in Washington, D.C. next month. Biden will share the stage with Allison Janney, Ellen Page, Jason Collins, Carley Rae Jepsen, A Great Big World and hip-hop artist Futuristic.

As both senator and vice president, Biden's work to advance LGBT equality is just one chapter in a remarkable lifetime of service to our country. He has played an integral role in the Obama Administration's unprecedented legacy of progress for the LGBT community. 

In addition, Academy Award nominated actress Ellen Page will be presented with an award at the event highlighting the organization's work fighting for full LGBT equality.

Page has charmed audiences and critics with captivating performances in a wide range of films. In addition, Page - who made the bold decision to come out publicly at HRC's first annual Time to THRIVE conference - continues to set a powerful example for LGBT and allied youth around the world.

Retired NBA athlete Jason Collins and Blossom Brown are also slated to speak. Jason Collins was the first openly gay player to be signed by an NBA team. Collins and Blossom Brown, a transgender student and HRC volunteer who was featured in a television ad from HRC's "All God's Children" campaign and has appeared on "I Am Cait" and the "Ellen Degeneres Show," will share more about their personal journeys, the challenges they've faced, and the victories they've claimed living open and authentic lives.

The 19th annual HRC National Dinner, which is expected to draw over 3,000 guests, will be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. More information is available at www.hrcnationaldinner.org.

Biden Hailed By Gay Rights Group, But Clinton Has Head Start

(AP) Not yet a presidential candidate, Vice President Joe Biden will have a prime perch to appeal to LGBT voters when he headlines a glitzy national gala. Yet it may be too late to win over influential gay Democrats already committed to Hillary Rodham Clinton should he join the 2016 Democratic contest.

At the Human Rights Campaign's sold-out soirée Oct. 3 in Washington, it's Biden who will get top billing. In a way, Clinton will be his warm-up act; she'll speak to the group's board and staff in the morning, but won't be on stage for the star-studded dinner.

Gay and lesbian voters and their allies represent a natural base of support for Biden, who won accolades from the community by backing gay marriage ahead of the 2012 election and became the highest elected official to support what was then a highly charged political issue. President Barack Obama followed days later, leading activists to muse with a touch of irony that it took an older, white male to get the first black president on board with a modern civil rights issue.

The prominent gay rights group hasn't endorsed yet in the 2016 race, but it plans to be engaged in the primary.

Clinton, too, has a long history on gay rights, and the Human Rights Campaign praised her this week as a "tireless champion" for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people across the globe. Clinton's LGBT supporters point to a 2011 speech she gave as secretary of state fervently declaring that "gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights."


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