By Bridget Johnson - 10/11/09 02:13 AM EDT
President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaWATCH LIVE: Obama speaks at African American Museum opening Obama talks racial tension at African-American museum opening Trump in 2011: Clintons ‘have done so much’ for blacks MORE vowed to end the ban on gays serving openly in
the military just as gay-rights activists gathered for a weekend march
on the Capitol.
Speaking Saturday night at the annual dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, Obama also called on Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and advocated a law to extend benefits to domestic partners.
Obama asked his critics in the gay community -- who have questioned his commitment to advancing gay-rights issues -- to "not doubt the direction we are headed and the destination we will reach.”
The president vowed that progress on issues important to the gay community will be forthcoming.
"My commitment to you is unwavering," Obama said.
Obama also referenced the House’s widening of hate crimes legislation to include violence based on sexual orientation, and said his administration is also addressing the continuing problem of HIV and AIDS.
The president's remarks came a day before the National Equality March from McPherson Square to the west lawn of the Capitol, where gay-rights supporters will hold a rally. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) told the Associated Press on Friday that the demonstration was "a waste of time at best" and that activists needed to concentrate on lobbying lawmakers.
"The only thing they're going to be putting pressure on is the grass," Frank said.