Obama: Commander-in-chief must support gay troops
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says anyone running for president must support the entire U.S. military, including gay service members.
Obama's comments targeted Republican presidential candidates. He says they should not have allowed a crowd to boo a gay service member who asked a videotaped question in a debate last month.
Obama spoke Saturday at the annual dinner for the Human Rights Campaign, a major gay rights organization.
The president heralded his administration's work on gay issues, including repealing the military's ban on openly homosexual service members. But he says there is more work to be done in ensuring gay Americans are not discriminated against.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
President Barack Obama has said his stand on gay marriage is "evolving," but don't look for any change when he addresses a leading gay rights group.
His appearance before the Human Right Campaign on Saturday night comes less than two weeks after the military ended its ban on openly gay service members. Obama championed that change.
The president has said that for now, he supports civil unions but not same-sex marriage. His stance is a sore point with some gay supporters who say they're otherwise pleased with the president's handling of gay issues.
With the president increasingly focused on his 2012 campaign, some gay advocates believe Obama will wait until after the election to make any significant announcement about gay marriage.
Fred Sainz, vice president of communications at the Human Rights Campaign, said he expects Obama to eventually declare his support for gay marriage.
He said the president's position on this issue shouldn't diminish his work on other causes important the gay community. They include the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy and his order that the Justice Department stop defending in court a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
"He really has been an incredible champion for the issues that are important to us," Sainz said. "It's fair to say we've made more progress in the past two years than we have in the past 40 years combined."
Even without Obama's backing, a few states have passed legislation legalizing gay marriage; New York was the most recent. Public sentiment is moving in the direction of supporting gay marriage, with most polls showing people are now about evenly split or narrowly in favor.
Obama has recognized that reality, saying during a meeting with liberal bloggers last October that "it's pretty clear where the trend lines are going."
Joe Sudbay of AmericaBlog.com was among the bloggers Obama spoke with last year. He said that while most gay advocates won't stop supporting the president if he doesn't speak out in favor of gay marriage before the election, doing so could give Obama's base much-needed energy.
"He might not lose votes, but he won't gain enthusiasm," Sudbay said.