The protestors were local college students, “fighting for global health equity,” said Arjus Suri a first-year student at the Harvard Medical School. “Candidate Obama promised $50 billion for to fight global AIDS.” But “he’s delivered on only one-tenth of that promise.”
During the president’s remarks Obama mentioned his administration’s increased funding for HIV/AIDS.
But not enough for Suri: Yes, “when the president said he funded AIDS a little bit more, he was right,” Suri said. “One-tenth is not enough. An inch is not a mile. It’s not enough to pay lip service by saying he’s funded more.”
Also inside the convention center, gay-rights activists from the grass roots group _Join the Impact_ reproached Obama for balking on same-sex civil marriage.
Boston College law student Paul Sousa spoke out several times during Obama’s remarks. “I asked the president to stop the bigotry and support marriage equality,” Sousa explained.
“I also asked whether he opposes atheist marriage since his opposition to civil marriage rights for same-sex couples is based upon his religious beliefs.”
“Would you want a civil union?” Sousa yelled out to Obama who did not respond.
In fact, during an interview with the _Chicago Daily Tribune_, Obama told the newspaper, “I’m a Christian. And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.”
But for Sousa, civil marriage is the issue, not religious marriage.
Challenging Obama over marriage equality is a slight change of tactics among local activists. In previous Obama protests, representatives from _Get Equal_ heckled the president over not doing enough to lift the ban on openly gay service in the military and for not pushing hard enough for federal legislation to ban sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace.
While many Democrats have shunned the president, the Massachusetts governor has embraced him. Patrick, an ardent backer of gay equality, is in tight race with a Republican challenger. Both candidates favor gay rights, but the GOP’s Charlie Baker has offended many LGBT voters by dismissing a transgender civil rights bill, saying he would veto “the bathroom bill.”
The rally came just ten days after 300 LGBT community leaders ands allies raised more than $160,000 for the Democratic governor who is seeking a second four-year term.
Activists from _Join the Impact_ and advocates of increased HIV/AIDS funding were clear – Deval Patrick was not their target.
A student at Fisher College, Ian Struthers of _Join the Impact_ said he wanted to hear the governor and to show support for the president. Still, “I wanted to tell Obama that I want the same rights as everyone else. I want and end to DADT, and an inclusive ENDA so that I can have job security. I work and pay taxes and am like everyone else – except that I date men.”
Sending Obama a marriage for marriage equality, Sousa said, “Best comes from Massachusetts.”