President Obama hosted the first LGBT Pride reception in 2009 and Xenos believes the president is really committed to working for equality for LGBT people.
“He is more an ally than people give him credit for. I think he has a genuine interest in our community and our issues,” she said.
Also receiving invitations were Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, and Trisha Clymore of the Atlanta Pride Committee. Clymore is also co-president of InterPride, an international association made up of organizations that put on Pride events around the globe.
They each got to invite one person — Xenos invited Lambert; Graham invited Melinda Sheldon, longtime operations director for Georgia Equality; and Clymore invited James Parker Sheffield, executive director of Atlanta Pride.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. Jeff picked me to go with him and I’m very grateful for that,” Morgan said. “I’m also very excited to be attending as a veteran of the Air Force.”
Morgan served in the Air Force for four years and in the reserves for two years, getting out of the reserves in 1999. She and her partner, Suzanne Sheldon, were married last year in Vermont.
While Obama has received criticism from many in the LGBT community, Morgan said he has done many things people are not aware of such as protections for LGBT families when it comes to hospital visitation and housing discrimination.
“We really need to give him a lot of credit for keeping his promises. I’m confident he will continue to actively support our community and full equality and that he will come around on the marriage issue,” she said.
Graham said he was glad to take Sheldon with him to meet the president for her years of hard work and hopes to have a minute to share some of his thoughts with Obama.
“I was certainly very honored and taken aback,” he said, describing when he received the official invitation in the mail. “And I could not be more excited that Melinda is going with me. This was not something I had anticipated or expected.”
Graham also praised President Obama and his dedication to working for equality for LGBT Americans. On the marriage issue, Graham said he hopes the president evolves soon.
“I hope when he says he’s evolving he does understand our right to a civil marriage license is a very important part of the LGBT struggle for equality today,” he said. “We have the majority of the country on our side.”
The stall in the New York legislature over approving gay marriage is due to religious groups opposing the effort, Graham noted.
“And we are a secular nation,” Graham said. “I do hope the president evolves from his current stand.”
Graham praised Obama’s achievements, including his stance on LGBT bullying. But the president can do more on issues such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and AIDS funding, he added. He also said, however, that Congress is keeping some of the president’s initiatives from moving forward.
“The president can only go so far if Congress doesn’t support him,” he said.
And while the president has done a good job for the day-to-day lives of LGBT people, Graham said he wishes he would take a more vocal and assertive approach to LGBT rights, such as recognizing that ENDA is an economic issue.
“This is part of how he can get our economy back on track,” Graham said. “There are no workplace protections in the majority of states.”
Graham also said he wishes he would see more leadership from Obama and his administration when it comes to federal funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program.
“ADAP is a huge crisis in Georgia, but this is really a national problem,” he said.
Trisha Clymore said when she received her invitation, she immediately knew she would invite Sheffield to go with her to the White House.
“He and I have been working together since 1995 [on Pride]. We’ve been together a long time. He was the first person I thought of,” she said.
Sheffield said he hasn’t had much time to think about his visit next week to the White House because of Stonewall Week taking place and wrapping up this weekend.
“I’m incredibly honored [Clymore] picked me to go with her,” Sheffield said.
“I feel like a kid about it. I’m still at the stage of, ‘I’m going to the White House? Really?’” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, it is a big deal to meet the president.”
Top photo: Daniele Xenos, far right, is attending the LGBT Pride reception June 29 at the White House with her partner, Sherry Lambert, far left. Their daughters are Elizabeth and Katherine. (Photo by Ilse N. Sears)