Obama Gives Gay Marriage Scant Mention at LGBT Fundraiser

By Ben Fractenberg on June 23, 2011 10:52pm | Updated on June 24, 2011 7:01am

By Ben Fractenberg

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MIDTOWN — President Barack Obama gave gay marriage barely a mention at a fundraiser in Midtown Thursday night, even as New York stood on the verge of voting on historic legislation to legalize same-sex unions.

The president's first words on the subject came nearly 12 minutes into his speech at the LGBT Leadership Council event at the Sheraton Hotel on Seventh Avenue and West 53rd Street. And some in the audience heckled Obama for not coming out more strongly in favor of same-sex marriage.

"I understand there's a little debate going on here in New York about whether to join five other states and D.C. in allowing civil marriage for gay couples," he said. "I want to say under the leadership of Governor Cuomo with the support of Democrats and Republicans, New York is doing exactly what democracies are supposed to do."

During the speech, the president addressed the issue in general, but did not explicitly come out in support of legalizing same-sex marriage in New York.

Outside the event, which was reportedly expected to net upwards of $1 million dollars for Obama’s reelection campaign, over a dozen people protested.

"Evolve already!" yelled protester Eugene Lovendusky, 26, of Queens, in reference to the president’s earlier statements on his position on same-sex marriage.

Obama has said he supports civil unions, but has been "evolving" about the issue of marriage.

Lovendusky said he was upset Obama was not speaking out on marriage equality while he was in New York "getting gay money."

The coalition of LGBT rights groups — including Queer Rising, Get EQUAL and Join the Impact — got together to protest while the New York State Senate was inching towards a vote Thursday.

"If we were talking about interracial marriage and it was still illegal he would speak out on this," said Todd Fernandez, 47, a spokesman for Queer Rising and Get EQUAL. "He's skirting the issue for political reasons and it’s insulting to our community."

People leaving the fundraiser said they were not surprised the president did not give his direct support on the issue, but that they felt he was their best hope of getting equal rights.

But at least one person at the fundraiser heckled the president for not taking a stronger stance on the issue.

"What about marriage?" Chelsea resident Joy Tomchin, 63, said she yelled out before the president referenced the Albany vote.

"I was angry when he started to talk about equal rights and civil rights and not about marriage," said Tomchin.

Obama seemed to take the criticism in stride.

"I expect continued impatience with me on occasion," the president said near the end of his speech. "There should be impatience when it comes to basic equality."

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