12 Oct 2009

Protesters demand greater protection gay rights in US

1:14 pm on 12 October 2009

Thousands of gay and lesbian activists and their supporters demonstrated in Washington on Sunday to demand greater protection of their civil rights.

The BBC reports the protest took place a day after President Barack Obama said he would repeal a ban on gay people serving openly in the military.

The marchers also called for the speedy removal of legal restrictions on same-sex partnerships.

Mr Obama has been accused by some in the gay community of being slow to act on gay rights.

Protesters also carried signs urging President Obama to make good on his promise to end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military.

The policy allows gay people to serve in the military if they do not reveal their sexual orientation.

Mr Obama has not given a timetable for repeal of the policy, which was passed by Congress in 1993.

Gay rights compared to civil rights movement

Main speaker at the rally, Julian Bond - who chairs the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) - compared gay rights to the civil rights movement.

"Black people of all people should not oppose equality and that is what marriage is all about," he said.

The BBC reports Mr Obama has taken steps towards addressing gay rights issues, including extending some benefits to the spouses of gay federal employees.

Married gay and lesbian couples are also allowed by the state department to obtain passports with their married names.

But the president has been criticised for not delivering on his promise to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which limits how local and federal bodies can recognise gay partnerships and determine benefits.

Polls consistently show there are far more opponents of gay marriage than there are supporters.