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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 22, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 25
Obama hosts Seattle activists at Pride Month reception
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Obama hosts Seattle activists at Pride Month reception

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

On the afternoon of June 15, President Obama hosted a reception in the East Room of the White House in observance of LGBT Pride Month. The President welcomed community leaders, students, politicians, and members of the armed forces from across the country for the annual cocktail reception, and paid tribute to the generations of LGBT Americans who devoted their lives to ensuring equality for all.

Rod Hearne, executive director of Equal Rights Washington, was among those invited.

'I believe I was invited because of the work ERW is doing for marriage equality. I was invited with a 'plus one,' so I brought my fiancé, Roger Nyhus.'

Desi Bailey, board president of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, also represented Washington state.

In all, about 400 people attended, including California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and actor Matt Bomer.

In one particularly poignant moment, a Transgender man got down on one knee in Cross Hall, the White House's main first-floor hallway, and proposed to his partner as members of the Marine Band played.

'I believe [this reception has] happened every year of the Obama administration so far,' Hearne told SGN.

'It was quite magical going to the White House. & We really kind of had the run of the place,' he said. 'We felt quite welcome there & Roger and I got to sit in the president's and first lady's chairs in the [White House] theater - we got a picture.'

During the reception, Obama gave a statement. 'Now, I've said before that I would never counsel patience - that it wasn't right to tell you to be patient any more than it was right for others to tell women to be patient a century ago, or African Americans to be patient a half-century ago. After decades of inaction and indifference, you have every reason and right to push, loudly and forcefully, for equality,' the president said.

'That was really resonating with the crowd because we were really the people rallying the activists within our respective states,' said Hearne.

'Americans may be still evolving when it comes to marriage equality, but as I've indicated personally, Michelle and I have made up our minds on this issue,' Obama went on. 'So we still have a long way to go, but we will get there. We'll get there because of all of you. We'll get there because of all of the ordinary Americans who every day show extraordinary courage. We'll get there because of every man and woman and activist and ally who is moving us forward by the force of their moral arguments, but more importantly, by the force of their example.'

Hearne noted, 'This was the first Pride reception where Gay and Lesbian servicemembers were allowed to attend in uniform with their partners. One of the servicemembers [present] had actually been stationed in Seattle. [Roger and I] had previously met him at an HRC dinner in Seattle, and he is now an out Gay servicemember stationed in the White House.

'It was magical,' said Hearne of the experience. 'We were, of course, very honored to be able to go to represent Washington and the work that people are doing in Washington.'

Obama concluded his remarks by saying, 'As long as I have the privilege of being your President, I promise you, you won't just have a friend in the White House - you will have a fellow advocate, for an America where no matter what you look like or where you come from or who you love, you can dream big dreams and dream as openly as you want.'

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