Obama promises progress to gay community

President Obama worked to assuage tension between his administration and the gay community Monday, telling them that he remains committed to their most important issues.

Speaking to a group in the East Room of the White House representing the gay community, Obama reiterated his pledge to overturn both the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell rule.

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Monday's event was the administration's first event honoring Gay Pride Month for a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender audience and it came amid growing tension between Obama's White House and the gay community.

The president has come under intense fire from a loyal demographic that has accused his administration of dragging its feet on DOMA and Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Last week, some high-profile gay Democrats boycotted a fundraiser attended by Vice President Biden.

Obama said Monday he is aware that many in the gay community "don't believe progress has come fast enough," comparing their struggles to those of blacks during the civil rights movement.

"It is not for me to tell you to be patient any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African-Americans who were petitioning for equal rights a half century ago," Obama said. "But I say this, we have made progress and we will make more."

The president said that he expects and hopes "to be judged not by words, not by promises I've made, but by the promises that my administration keeps."

"We've been in office six months now, and I suspect that by the time this administration is over I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration," the president said.

The rift between the administration and the gay community was exacerbated by a Department of Justice (DOJ) brief defending DOMA and comparing gay marriage to incest.

In defending the DOJ's brief, Obama also sought to clarify his goal of reversing DOMA.

"I've called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act to help end discrimination against same-sex couples in this country," Obama said. "Now I want to add we have a duty to uphold existing law, but I believe we must do so in a way that does not exacerbate old divides. And fulfilling this duty in upholding the law in no way lessens my commitment to reversing this law. I've made that clear."

On Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the president said he believes "preventing patriotic Americans from serving their country weakens our national security."

"I know that every day that passes without a resolution is a deep disappointment to those men and women who continue to be discharged under this policy, patriots who often possess critical language skills and years of training and who've served this country well," Obama said.

The president said he has asked the joint chiefs and Congress to find what the White House has called an "enduring" solution to overturning the law.

The president also promised to push for an employee nondiscrimination law and a hate crimes law named after Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was tortured and murdered in Wyoming.