President Barack Obama signaled to gay rights activists Wednesday that he is listening to their desire for greater equality in "a more perfect union." But he did not give them even close to everything they want, bringing anger that has been growing against the president to the surface.
The president's critics saw the incremental move to expand gay rights as little more than pandering to a reliably Democratic voting bloc, with the primary aim not of making policy fairer but of cutting short a fundraising boycott.
"We all have to acknowledge this is only one step," Obama said in his Oval Office, where he signed a memorandum extending some benefits, such as visitation or dependent care rights, to the same-sex partners of federal employees.
"When a president tells you he's going to be different, you believe him," said John Aravosis, a Washington-based gay activist. "It's not that he didn't follow through on his promises, he stabbed us in the back."
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