President Obama speaks to HRC, jokes about Lady Gaga

Sat. October 1, 2011 11:25 PM by News Staff

president obama keynotes hrc national dinner

photo credit // maureen mccarty/

Obama: “No one has to live a lie to serve the country they love”

Washington, D.C. - President Barack Obama got a rousing reception at a dinner hosted by the Human Rights Campaign in Washington on Saturday night, in spite of his sometimes lackluster efforts on gay rights issues.

President Obama was a strong proponent of the end of 'don't ask, don't tell', a point he made to much applause during his speech.

"All over the world, there are men and women serving this country just as they always have -- with honor and courage and discipline and valor. We got it done," he said. "All around the world, you've got gays and lesbians who are serving, and the only difference is now they can put up a family photo."

Obama declared that "'don't ask, don't tell' is history."

The president criticized his Republican rivals and referenced the boos for a gay service member at the Sept. 22 Fox News-Google Republican presidential debate in Orlando.

"We don't believe in the kind of smallness that says it's OK for a stage full of political leaders — one of whom could end up being the President of the United States — being silent when an American soldier is booed," he said to a cheering crowd of about 3,000 gay rights supporters.

Obama said that stopping anti-gay bullying was a national priority.

"This isn't just 'kids being kids.' It's wrong. It's destructive. It's never acceptable. And I want all those kids to know that the President and the First Lady is standing right by them every inch of the way," he said.

Obama got some laughs from the crowd by talking about his recent meeting with Lady Gaga, who feels passionately about ending bullying.

"I also took a trip out to California last week, where I held some productive bilateral talks with your leader, Lady Gaga. She was wearing 16-inch heels. She was eight feet tall. It was a little intimidating," he said.

President Obama said he's pushing to end the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act," although he fell short of actually saying that gays and lesbians should have the right to marry each other.

There's a bill to repeal this discriminatory law in Congress, and I want to see that passed. But until we reach that day, my administration is no longer defending DOMA in the courts. I believe the law runs counter to the Constitution, and it's time for it to end once and for all," he said.

In the past, Obama has said his views on gay marriage are "evolving" and for now he continues to supports same-sex civil unions.

Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain support the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defines marriage as between a man and woman.

The Log Cabin Republicans called Obama's appearance Saturday more about politics and less about substantive policy change.

After he left the HRC dinner, President Obama took the First Lady out to dinner to celebrate their 19th wedding anniversary.

Watch the full speech, which was streamed live online, here on the website.