President Obama heads to New York City Thursday evening to host a gala with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, as advocates are frustrated he hasn't endorsed gay marriage and New York state takes up a key vote on the issue.Obama will headline a $1,250 per ticket event that will also include remarks from actor Neil Patrick Harris. More than 500 people are expected to attend and money raised will go to a joint fundraising committee that contributes to both the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Obama for America (OFA).
The president has previously come out in support of civil unions, and has said that his views are "evolving."
Press Secretary Jay Carney earlier this week downplayed any major announcement coming Thursday and regarding the issue of New York state's pending gay marriage legislation, Carney referred the press to the president's previous statements on the issue. But proponents of same-sex marriage say it's time for the president to move on the issue.
"It is time for President Obama to complete the journey of thinking through why marriage matters and how the denial of marriage harms families, while helping no one -- and join the national majority that polls now show support the freedom to marry," said Evan Wolfson, President of Freedom to Marry.
Some pro-gay marriage groups planned on demonstrating outside of the fundraiser Thursday night.
And the timing and place of the gala is amplified as New York state lawmakers are nearing a vote that could make gay marriage legal. The state would then join Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa and the District of Columbia in legalizing same-sex marriage. The New York senate is just one vote shy and approval could come Thursday.
Some in the gay community were disappointed with Obama's pace of pushing for gay rights early on in his administration. But he was able to tone down some of that criticism by working on repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, pressuring the Justice Department to stop taking on Defense of Marriage cases and extending benefits to same sex partners for government employees.
Just last week at Netroots Nation, a liberal gathering for bloggers, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer faced angered activists saying the president hasn't done enough to make the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal swift enough and confusion over a questionnaire from the 90s where the president seemed to endorse gay marriage, but possibly changed his tune to win election in 2008.
The administration is reportedly considering options for the president if he were to decide to fully endorse gay marriage. The New York Times cited anonymous officials who said the White House was seeking input on tactics and the impact if he chose to support it.
Asked whether Obama would be selling this audience short by asking for money, but not supporting a key issue for them, Carney reiterated the president's backing of the community.
"[T]his President is very supportive of and strong on LGBT rights and his record is significant with regard to that. He's been very clear about his position on gay marriage. He has been very clear about how that position is evolving. I don't have any new announcement to make. But I think you know his record, and he's proud of it," Carney said on Monday.
Recent polls narrowly show that the nation is warming up to the idea of gay marriage, with a slim majority supporting it.
Next week President Obama will also host a gay pride event at the White House.