In his remarks Monday, Obama also made a brief reference to LGBT rights in the workplace, saying his agenda included building an economy that “gives every American the chance to get ahead … no matter … who you love.” But some noted Obama has so far refused to heed calls to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against workers on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Last week, first lady Michelle Obama was confronted over her husband’s failure to take such action by a protester who interrupted her speech at a private fundraiser in Washington. Michelle Obama responded angrily and threatened to leave.
Michelle Obama: “And I don’t care what you believe in. We don’t — wait, wait, wait. One of the things I — one of the things that I don’t do well is this. … I can take the mic, but I’m leaving. So, you all decide.”
Crowd: “No, no!”
Ellen Sturtz: “I need your husband to sign…”
Unidentified Woman: “No, please don’t leave.”
The protest action divided some progressives. Some criticized the protester, Ellen Sturtz, saying there were racial overtones when she said she was “taken aback” that Michelle Obama “came right down in my face,” in response to the interruption. Anthea Butler, a professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said: “Media coverage also played along, portraying the First Lady as the aggressor rather than Sturtz. … Such a characterization read instantly to many as an exhibition of white privilege. Similar statements of any black person 'stepping out of their place' in the 19th and 20th centuries resulted in beatings and lynchings.”