Five members of Get Equal, a newly-established grassroots gay rights group based in California, interrupted and annoyed President Barack Obama as he spoke at a Democratic fund raiser for Senator Barbara Boxer at the California Science Center in Los Angeles last night.
The gay rights activists implored Obama to overturn the military ban on gays and lesbians called “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” yelling at the president, “What about 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'?”
In the video footage, Obama looked flustered, even angry that the activists challenged him on a policy he promised to overturn during his 2008 presidential campaign, but remains unchanged after more than a year in the White House.
“You don't know exactly why you gotta holler because we already hear ya'!” Obama yelled back at the activists.
A few moments later, Obama sarcastically asked the activists, who started chanting again, “I'm sorry, do you want to come up here?”
It was an uncharacteristic response by the president, who's known for rarely, if ever, losing his cool.
The Get Equal activists involved in the protest — David John Fleck, Dan Fotou, Laura Kanter, Zoe Nicholson, and Michelle Wright — seemed to touch upon a sensitive issue for Obama.
News of the protest, which occurred shortly after 6 p.m., spread quickly through various media outlets, including the Variety blog Wilshire & Washington and local news radio.
Frontiers news editor Karen Ocamb also has excellent coverage of the event, with an interview with one of the activists.
The Los Angeles Times, for some reason, didn't post anything about the feisty exchange, which the Times itself described as “unusual,” until after 9 p.m. last night, and gave it minimal coverage at that.
Get Equal was founded by California gay rights activists Robin McGehee and Kip Williams. McGehee, a college professor and mother of two, was featured in an L.A. Weekly cover story in 2009, titled “Setting the (Gay) Wedding Table.”
McGehee also appeared in the 2009 “People of the Year” issue of The Advocate, the national gay and lesbian news magazine, for her work in the gay rights movement.
McGehee was an enthusiastic supporter of Obama's 2008 presidential run, but told The Advocate she was tired of inspiring speeches from the president and instead wanted real policy changes that he had promised yet was taking his time to deliver.
The gay blog Queerty predicts that similar protests are likely to pop up, which is most probably true. McGehee and Williams formed Get Equal to take “bold action” on the behalf of the LGBT community.
On the Get Equal Web site, it states: “Our mission at GetEQUAL is simple: to create a movement of everyday
people–lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and straight–who are
dedicated to bringing about full legal and social equality. We believe
there are millions of Americans who are tired of waiting and are ready
to act. Our goal is to serve and grow this constituency by helping them
take strategic, coordinated, bold action to demand equality, and to hold
accountable those who stand in the way.”
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.