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Inspired by Marines, Obama eyes more gay rights

Associated Press Published: February 14, 2012

Satisfied with the muffled reaction inside the military to his lifting of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” President Obama is telling gay advocates that he wants to expand homosexual rights in the military, likely in the direction of expanding benefits available to heterosexual couples to same-sex partners.

As the president tells it, the inspiration for his efforts came during the first family’s Christmas vacation in Hawaii when three U.S. Marines, lifting weights along side the president in a military gym, approached “very quietly” to thank him for ending the anti-gay policy instituted by former President Bill Clinton.

“I didn’t even know whether they were gay or lesbian,” the president said at a private fundraiser this month. “I didn’t ask, because that wasn’t the point. The point was these were outstanding Marines who appreciated the fact that everybody was going to be treated fairly.”

At the Washington home of two lesbian donors that netted $1.4 million, the president ended his story with a pledge to push forward on other issues of military fairness. “We’re going to have more work to do on this issue,” he said to about 40 who paid $38,800 each to attend. “There’s still areas where fairness is not the rule. And we’re going to have to keep on pushing in the same way, persistently, politely, listening to folks who don’t always agree with us, but sticking to our guns in terms of what our values are all about,”

While it is unclear exactly what the president’s expanded agenda is, gay advocates say that the military is facing substantial and conflicting personnel issues over recognizing gays on the one hand but not their marriages or relationships due to the Defense of Marriage Act that bars benefits going to gay partners. “It’s a personnel nightmare,” said Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper, an Army Reservist decorated for his service in Iraq.

The Human Rights Campaign, the national gay lobby, adds that several other conflicting military policies are under study at the White House. “They’re issues we’ve brought up with them and continue to have conversations about the best ways moving forward,” said a spokesman.

The group, which has strong ties to the president and Democrats in Congress, has drawn up a list of key military gay rights issues for Congress to consider and that are a starting point for the White House to consider.

Click to read full article at Washington Examiner