Obama promised about 3,000 gay activists Saturday that he would end the military's ban on open gay service, but offered no specifics, The New York Times reported.

“I will end 'don't ask, don't tell',” Obama said. “That is my commitment to you.”

The president made his remarks during a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) fundraiser in Washington just hours before thousands of gay activists will descend on the city to press Congress – and the president – for action on gay rights legislation at Sunday's National Equality March. HRC is the nation's largest gay rights advocate.

“Don't ask, don't tell” is the 1993 law that prohibits gay and lesbian service members from revealing their sexuality at the risk of losing their jobs. During the presidential campaign Obama pledged to repeal the law but as president has refused to sign an executive order that would end military discharges while repeal legislation is debated in Congress, saying he's looking for a “durable” solution from Congress.

Protesters outside the building, led by Andy Thayer's Gay Liberation Network, held up banners urging the president to live up to his campaign promises.

Inside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center where Obama addressed the crowd for about 20 minutes reaction to the speech was mixed.

“For him, it's more time until he needs our votes again,” Raj Malthotra, 29, told the paper.

Obama addressed his detractors head-on, saying: “I appreciate that many of you don't believe progress has come fast enough. Do not doubt the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach.”

The president also called on Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law that bans federal agencies from recognizing legal gay marriages, and extend benefits to the spouses of federal employees.