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
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
“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.