President Obama addressed an LGBT audience at the White House last night, assuring them that he is fully committed to repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and to other issues including same-sex visitation rights in hospitals and the repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

At the reception, held to mark gay and lesbian pride month, Mr Obama said that “committed gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country”.

However, despite the President’s promise to take action over the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, he does not endorse same-sex marriage, instead favouring civil unions which he claims will give gay and lesbian couples the same rights as married couples. Also, his incremental approach to gay rights issues has left some LGBT activists frustrated. Gay activist Lane Hudson said, “We still need laws passed that achieve what these minimal efforts attempt to do piecemeal”.

Despite this, the Family Equality Concil, a body that works on behalf of gay men and women and their families, issued a statement commending Mr Obama for “small but significant steps” on behalf of LGBT people. However, they added that it was the “big-ticket” issues including gay adoption rights and laws barring discrimination in the workplace that needed his full attention.

A Gallup poll last month found that 70 per cent of Americans favoured allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military. However, the poll also found that 53 per cent opposed legalisation of gay marriage.