MINNEAPOLIS -- After heated criticism of President Barack Obama on gay issues at Netroots Nation, openly gay Congressman Jared Polis defended Obama on Saturday, calling him "the best president this country has ever had on LGBT issues."
"[Gay Americans] have never had anything close to this much of an advocate in the White House in the United States," the Colorado Democrat told HuffPost.
Obama's record on gay rights has been under fire at Netroots Nation, a progressive conference being held this year in Minnesota. Some progressives have said he is too weak on LGBT issues.
But Polis pointed out that the president made two major steps forward: Obama signed into law a repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that barred gays from the military and announced that his administration would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law requiring marriage to be between a man and a woman.
"We were ultimately successful [at ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell], and the president's steadfast support of ending the policy the whole way through was very helpful in that regard," Polis said. "I think he also deserves strong accolades for his decision not to appeal the DOMA case. That's really a landmark decision, it's been very rare in the annals of history."
In particular, Obama was criticized at Netroots for his "evolving" position on gay marriage. In 1996, the president told Outlines newspaper he favored "legalizing same-sex marriage and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages," but he has since said he supports civil unions, not gay marriage.
When White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer was asked about the contradiction at a Friday session, he said the answers on the 1996 questionnaire were not from Obama.
"If you actually go back and look, that questionnaire was actually filled out by someone else -- not the president. There was a long debate about this in the campaign," Pfeiffer told Daily Kos' Kaili Joy Gray on stage at Netroots. "This was litigated in the campaign."
Polis, who did not attend the panel, said he heard it was "contentious." But he said the president has made major progress on gay issues and is likely to evolve further.
"He has alluded to the fact that, like many Americans, he's on a personal journey of transformation with regard to how he views gay marriage," Polis said. "I'm confident he'll end up in the right area eventually."
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