Obama tries to win back favor of gays

President Obama, under fire from some gay and lesbian groups for what they see as slow movement on two of their most important issues, is taking steps to keep that voting bloc in his column.

This week, the president will host an event at the White House "recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments" of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. The event comes just days after Vice President Biden was dispatched to extend an olive branch to the gay community.

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Despite Biden's efforts at a fundraiser last week, the event was still boycotted by some over the administration's inaction in repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Further fanning the flames of the gay community's ire, a Department of Justice memo came out earlier this month, defending DOMA and in one instance comparing gay marriage to incest.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said not to expect any announcements on the two controversial policies surrounding next week's event.

But Gibbs insisted that the event was planned in honor of Gay Pride Month and not as a result of political pressure.

This is not Obama's first entreaty to the gay community. Earlier this month, he signed a presidential memorandum extending some federal benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees, but many in the community say the president hasn't gone far enough.

At Thursday night's fundraiser, several high-profile gay Democratic fundraisers boycotted the event, and protesters outside held signs that read "Gay Uncle Toms," "SHAME" and "No Money for DOMA."

The event still raised $1 million, about $250,000 more than it did last year, but Biden acknowledged the impatience many in the gay community feel.

"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.

He promised though that the administration will "put some pace on the ball" on some major issues, and he stressed that Obama is committed to "keeping the nation focused on the unfinished business of true equality for all our people."

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Biden added: "We're not there yet."

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), one of three openly gay members of Congress, met with the protesters outside Thursday's event, and as she turned to go inside the crowd urged her to "boycott the bigots."

"We do feel an impatience and a frustration, and I think it's really important that that be expressed both outside and inside," Baldwin told one reporter at the event.

Biden, who told the crowd he doesn't blame them for their "impatience," listed what the administration has accomplished for the community so far, including 60 appointments of gays and lesbians with nine that require Senate confirmation.

Despite what they've accomplished, however, Biden promised that the gay community's key issues won't be "delayed, put off or not end on [Obama's] plate," receiving standing ovations when he repeated the administration's pledge to repeal both DOMA and Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

"I hope you don't doubt the president's commitment," Biden said.