Activists working to pass federal gay rights legislation should move now to take advantage of the current political climate, an Obama official said Friday.

“This is the best opportunity we will ever have as a community and shame on us if we don't succeed,” openly gay John Berry, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, said.

Berry made his remarks at the Out & Equal Workplace Advocates conference that ended Friday in Orlando, the AP reported. Michael Guest, the first openly gay ambassador to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and Malcolm Lazin, executive director of Equality Forum, also spoke at the four-day event.

“The clock is against us,” Berry said. “If we lose this, it could be years if not a decade before this opportunity comes around.”

In June, as gay activists and bloggers vented their disappointment with the Obama administration for defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law that bans federal agencies from recognizing gay marriages, Berry first spoke for the administration.

“[W]e want to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act,” Berry told gay monthly The Advocate. “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.”

Five months later – with House passage on Thursday of a bill that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of federal hate crimes – at least one of the gay community's high-priority issues appears within reach.

But gay activists' legislative wish lists include workplace protections, repeal of DOMA, and allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military. A broader agenda includes repeal of the HIV travel ban, granting full benefits to the spouses of government workers, and gay-inclusive immigration and health care reform.

Berry's speech came a day before President Obama is to address the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights advocate.