Gay rights activists rally in Chicago, DC
October 11, 2009 (WLS) -- Thousands of gay rights activists marched from the White House to the Capitol in Washington Sunday, demanding that President Obama carry out his promise to end the "Don't ask, Don't tell" ban on gays serving openly in the military.
Activists in Chicago were also calling for urgent action.
It was a promise Obama made in his campaign and a promise he made again Saturday night speaking to the nation's largest gay rights organization. However, the president would not give a timetable on when the policy would be lifted.
While many members of the gay community have been big Obama supporters, many activists are frustrated with the slow pace of changes.
From Daley Plaza to the streets of Washington DC, the protesters' chants could be heard.
"Equality now!" they shouted in Chicago's Daley Plaza.
"What do we want? Equal rights. When do we want it? Now," demonstrators said in Washington.
Equal rights is what thousands of gay and lesbian activists marched for Sunday at both the rally in the nation's capitol and a much smaller one here in Chicago. The marches came one day after President Obama promised something they have all heard before.
"I will end 'Don't ask, Don't tell.' That's my commitment to you," the president said.
Repealing the military's policy is a commitment the gay and lesbian community was hoping the president would have acted on already.
"We've been told so many times by so many leaders that they're going to do something for us, and they're going to represent us. And time and time again, there is a lack of action," said Anthony Martinez of LGBT Change.
Despite Martinez's frustrations with politicians, he says he is confident Obama will keep his word.
"He has shown he is a friend to us, more so than any other presiden ever has. I truly hope and pray it wasn't more lip service," Martinez said.
At a human rights campaign dinner, the president acknowledged the frustrations the gay community feels with the slow progress of gay rights issues. Many activists are demanding a timeline for changes to take place.
Others realize Obama cannot do it alone and are calling the on the gay community to put pressure on Congress. While many lawmakers support the idea of gays serving openly in the military, others like Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss says "Don't ask, don't tell" is working.
"It's worked well, and I think there's no reason to change it. I get calls from military personnel every time this issue gets stirred up, and this is not a popular discussion in the military, I assure you," Chambliss said.
Other lawmakers are debating whether senior military leadership should be on board before ending the policy.
"Don't ask, Don't tell" was signed into law in 1993. Some predict action will not be taken on the issue until health care and other matters are dealt with.
Several polls have shown that over 70 percent of the military would keep serving if gays were allowed to serve openly.
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