WASHINGTON--President Obama--confronting gay critics who expected his administration to have done more by now to assure progress on gay rights issues--said Saturday night he understands their impatience with him but vowed to deliver on his pledges.
"My commitment to you is unwavering," Obama told the Human Rights Campaign dinner, putting the gay rights stuggle in the context of the greater civil rights movement. The speech came the night before a gay rights march in Washington and after the House voted on Friday to expand the definition of hate crimes to include gay, lesbian and transgender people.
"I will not waver in ending discrimination in all its forms," Obama said.
He pledged to end the military "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, noting that legislation to do so is pending in Congress.
"We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve this country. We should be celebrating their willingness to show such courage and selflessness on behalf of their fellow citizens, especially when we are fighting two wars," Obama said to sustained cheers.
"I will end Don't Ask, Don't Tell, that's my commitment."