Reaction to President Obama's hesitation to move on gay rights issues has reached a breaking point, possibly threatening the backing he has enjoyed from gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups in the past.

The brink arrived last week when a brief filed in federal court by the Obama administration in support of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was publicized. In the brief, Obama's Justice Department agitated gay groups not only for defending DOMA, the 1996 law that allows states to ignore legal gay marriages performed elsewhere and defines marriage as a heterosexual union for federal agencies, but also for using outdated, anti-gay arguments.

During the campaign Obama called the law “abhorrent” and promised he would repeal the law.

“If elected, I would call on Congress to enact legislation that would repeal DOMA and ensure that the over 1,100 federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally recognized unions,” he told gay weekly The Washington Blade.

On Friday, the gay blogosphere erupted over the president's broken promise.

Prominent blogger John Arovosis hit hard at the document in a blog post at, calling it “despicable, and gratuitously homophobic.”

“It reads as if it were written by one of George Bush's top political appointees,” Arovosis said. “Obama didn't just argue a technicality about the case, he argued that DOMA is reasonable. That DOMA is constitutional. That DOMA wasn't motivated by anti-gay animus.”

The Obama administration attempted damage control on Sunday, trotting out John Berry, the highest ranking openly gay official in the administration, to respond in an interview with gay monthly The Advocate. But Berry's convoluted statements only served to fan the fire further.

Berry, who heads the Office of Personnel Management, reiterated that the president is committed to repeal of DOMA, but that the administration cannot cherry pick which laws to defend, and promised repeal “before the sun sets on this administration.”

“This president took a solemn oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and he does not get to decide and choose which laws he enforces. He has to enforce the laws that have been enacted appropriately and that he has inherited.”

“[W]e want to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act,” Berry added. “Now, I'm not going to pledge – nor is the president – that this is going to be done by some certain date. The pledge and the promise is that this will be done before the sun sets on this administration.”

Berry also spoke of a broader gay and lesbian legislative agenda that includes passage of the Hate Crimes bill, repeal of “don't ask, don't tell” – the law that bans open gay military service – and ENDA, the gay employment protections bill.

Gay activists and bloggers called Berry's insistence that the administration must defend DOMA a lie, and viewed his “before the sun sets” comment as suggesting the administration had just punted gay rights legislation into the president's second term.

Berry also contradicted himself, at one point saying the administration is hopeful the Hate Crimes bill currently before the Senate will pass this week, but later says “We don't have the votes to do Hate Crimes right now.” Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy's Hate Crimes bill (S909) has attracted 43 co-sponsors, when the bill needs 60 votes for passage.

By Monday the issue reached a boiling point as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest GLBT rights advocate, called on the president to intervene, and bloggers began calling for desertion of the Democratic Party.

“[T]his brief would not have seen the light of day if someone in your administration who truly recognized our humanity and equality had weighed in with you,” Joe Solmonese, president of HRC, said in a letter addressed to the president.

“As an American, a civil rights advocate, and a human being, I hold this administration to a higher standard than this brief. In the course of your campaign, I became convinced – and I still want to believe – that you do, too.”

“We call on you to put your promises into action and send legislation repealing DOMA to congress,” Solmonese adds.

Gay bloggers hit harder, urging gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to uproot from the Democratic Party altogether.

“With Democratic friends like these, God helps us,” wrote respected gay activist David Mixner, who said he would not be attending a June 26 DNC gay and lesbian fundraiser featuring Vice President Joe Biden and co-chaired by Congress' three openly gay representatives: Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Jared Polis of Colorado.

The frayed nerves come after a string of missteps by the Obama administration have left gay and lesbian voters with buyers remorse. Obama's pick of anti-gay pastor Rev. Rick Warren to give the nation's prayer at his inauguration ceremony drew heavy protest in December. More recently anger has simmered over inaction on repealing the military's ban on open gay service, “don't ask, don't tell,” and the convoluted, even contradictory, messages being offered on the issue by the Pentagon and White House.

“We want to believe; give us a reason,” Mixner said.