NEW YORK (AP) — To a raucous embrace, President Barack Obama told gay donors Tuesday that American society and its laws have advanced the cause of gay rights over the past 10 years but said the job was hardly over in the United States and especially abroad.
He received a loud standing ovation when he declared that he had directed the White House to prepare an executive order barring discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The White House announced the initiative Monday, a long-sought measure in the gay community that Obama initially had resisted.
"It's not just laws that are changing, it's hearts and minds," he said before 550 supporters at a Democratic National Committee fundraising dinner for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender donors.
Obama was courting high-dollar Democratic contributors in New York, also headlining an event for a super PAC like the ones he once decried and appearing with about 30 donors who paid up to $32,400 to dine at the home of Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
Obama's attendance at the three fundraisers underscores his popularity as a draw for big donors and his utility in an election year building up the treasuries of the Democratic Party. Earlier Tuesday, Obama was in Pittsburgh promoting his economic policies and drawing contrasts with congressional Republicans, another midterm presidential task aimed at helping Democrats.
The dinner and the fundraiser for the Senate Majority PAC were closed to the media. The news media was permitted to cover Obama's remarks to the Democratic National Committee's gala for gala lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender donors, the centerpiece event of the evening.
The dinner at New York's Gotham Hall came on the same day that the Senate approved two openly gay Obama nominees for federal judgeships.
The president got a rousing reception at the gala for gay donors in response to his directive for an anti-discrimination executive order, even if it only applies to federal contractors.
Obama lacks authority to extend that protection to all Americans, but the order being drafted by the White House would affect about 14 million workers whose employers or states currently do not prohibit workplace discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. The scope of the measure was tabulated by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School, which studies sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.
Obama had resisted signing the order in hopes Congress would pass a broader non-discrimination measure that would apply to nearly all employers. While the Democratic-controlled Senate passed the legislation last year, the measure has languished in the Republican-led House and there is little sign that lawmakers will take it up in an election year.
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