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Gay rights demonstrators call on Obama to abolish 'don't ask, don't tell'

May 27, 2009 |  8:17 pm

Chanting and carrying flags, gay rights advocates called on President Obama tonight to more aggressively pursue equal rights for all Americans as they demonstrated outside the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where the president was attending a fundraiser.

Although organizers called the event a “welcome” for Obama, many in the crowd of 200 expressed anger that the president has not moved to repeal the federal defense of marriage act and the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gay service members.

During the protest, the crowd chanted, “Out of the court, into the streets, we are ready to fight, we won’t be beat.” It was a reference to Tuesday’s state Supreme Court decision to uphold Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage.

“The president made a promise when he made his speech about hope,” said Rick Jacobs, who chairs the Courage Campaign, an organizer of the protest. “I bought that promise and I still buy that promise, but it’s time for him to start fulfilling that promise for all Americans.”

Jacobs, who worked on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in California, said that gay rights groups had collected 140,000 signatures for a petition asking the president to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and to stop the firing of U.S. Army Lt. Dan Choi, an Arab language specialist who was ordered discharged after recently declaringthat he was gay on the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.

For the demonstration, Gustavo Yanez, 40, of Los Angeles had made a banner saying, “Obama. We voted for change. Stop discrimination.”

“I believe everyone deserves civil rights,” Yanez said. “Having second- and third-class citizens is not right, not in 2009. Obama said in his campaign that he wanted equal rights for all Americans. And we want to hold him to that.”

Corry Phillip, 22, of Hollywood said he was disappointed by the Proposition 8 decision. “It is not right what is going on right now,” he said. “I’m engaged to my partner and had that measure not been upheld, we would have been able to get married. I am going to keep on protesting even if it’s all by myself.”

-- Carla Rivera