US president Barack Obama has addressed accusations he has been slow to keep his promises on gay rights.

Speaking to 300 LGBT activists at a White House reception on Monday, he said: “I want you to know that I expect and hope to be judged not by words, not by promises I’ve made, but by the promises that my administration keeps.”

The president promised in his election campaign to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, which bans openly gay people from serving in the military, and the Defence of Marriage Act.

Gay rights activists have criticised what they see as slow progress, saying a recent concession to give equal benefits to gay partners of federal employees won’t include healthcare, will not be permanent and will not apply to those in the military.

Obama said: “We seek an America in which no one feels the pain of discrimination based on who you are or who you love.

“I know that many in this room don’t believe that progress has come fast enough, and I understand that.

“It’s not for me to tell you to be patient anymore than it was for others to counsel patience to African-Americans who were petitioning for equal rights a half-century ago.

“But I say this: we have made progress.”

His speech was briefly interrupted by a reporter’s mobile phone which rather embarrassingly made the sound of a quacking duck.

As Michelle Obama giggled and the reporter scrambled to switch off his phone, Obama said: “Whose duck is back there? There’s a duck quacking in there somewhere.”

“Where do you guys get these ringtones by the way?” he asked. “I’m just curious.”