Just as an undocumented transgender woman began repeatedly shouting “Not one more deportation!” at President Barack Obama during a White House LGBT pride reception, the man standing next to her — one of Miami’s best-known gay political activists — told her to stop.
“My comment to her after she said the same thing three times, I turned to her and said, ‘Enough! You made your point and now you're being disrespectful. You need to calm down, you’re ruining it for everyone else. You have to stop now,’” said Joseph Falk, an Obama fundraiser and former board chairman of South Florida LGBT-rights group SAVE. “She didn’t.”
Falk and SAVE Executive Director Tony Lima just happened to be standing next to Jennicet Gutiérrez as she began shouting at the president during an annual East Room reception for national LGBT pride month.
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“Listen, you’re in my house,” Obama told Gutiérrez, who continued to shout, amid a growing chorus of boos and hisses from other LGBT activists. “You don’t — come on. It’s not — you know what, it’s not respectful when you get invited to somebody — You’re not going to — you’re not going to get a good response from me by interrupting me like this. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. No, no, no, no. No, no. No. Shame onyou. You shouldn’t be doing this.”
After about two minutes, Obama said, “Can we escort this person out? Come on. You can either stay and be quiet, or we’ll have to take you out. All right, can we have this person removed, please?”
According to Falk, Gutiérrez “screamed all the way out.”
Moment later, even before White House journalists could report on the protest, activist group GetEqual sent a media release identifying Gutiérrez, who represents the organization.
“It was meant to embarrass the president, which is inappropriate,” Falk said. “If there ever was a president who was a champion for us, this is the guy. He doesn’t need to defend himself as far as LGBT rights is concerned.”
Lima agrees with Falk, that it’s wrong to be “rude and disrespectful to the president.”
Still, he congratulates Gutiérrez for speaking out about being an undocumented transgender immigrant: “I literally stand and figuratively stand by Jennicet in her activism and in her message.”
The SAVE leader said, “I applaud her for her activism and for relaying such an important message to the president.”
“The reality is that the immigrant transgender community and transgender women of color in general are the ones who are most vulnerable and marginalized in our country. These transgender people in detention are suffering rapes and abuses. It’s time to set them free and for someone to advocate for her rights. I applaud her,” Lima said.
“Jennicet is making history on her own. A great many of the people there were critical of her using that opportunity, but I think that it was very powerful on her part to use that opportunity for a much-needed message. And what better way to demand the president take action, then when in front of him and the media?”
Here is the complete GetEQUAL news release:
WASHINGTON, DC -- Just moments ago, Jennicet Gutiérrez interrupted the President during the White House pride celebration shouting “President Obama, release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention and stop all deportations.” As a transgender woman who is undocumented, Gutiérrez said she could not celebrate while some 75 transgender detainees were still being exposed to assault and abuse in ICE custody at this very moment.
“The White House gets to make the decision whether it keeps us safe, “explains Gutiérrez “There is no pride in how LGBTQ and transgender immigrants are treated in this country. If the President wants to celebrate with us, he should release the LGBTQ immigrants locked up in detention centers immediately.”
Gutiérrez came to the US from Mexico, seeking safety and economic opportunity. Gutiérrez has become one of many voices advocating for LGBTQ immigrants. The work of the organizations she represents, Familia QTLM and GetEQUAL, echoed yesterday when 35 Congresspeople signed a letter sent to ICE demanding the agency release LGBTQ immigrants out of concern for their safety.