US & Canada

Michelle Obama's speech interrupted by gay protester

Michelle Obama. Photo: May 2013
Image caption Michelle Obama was speaking at the Democratic National Committee fundraiser

A speech by US First Lady Michelle Obama at a fundraising event has been briefly interrupted by a protester demanding equal rights for gays.

Mrs Obama was speaking in Washington when a woman in the crowd started shouting, demanding White House action on gay and lesbian rights.

Mrs Obama then approached the woman and said: "Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I'm leaving."

The crowd urged Mrs Obama to stay, and the woman was then escorted out.

The protester at the Democratic National Committee fundraiser on Tuesday evening was later identified as Ellen Sturtz, a member of the GetEQUAL gay rights group.

Ms Sturtz, 56, was calling for an executive order to bar discrimination by federal contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

As she was escorted out, reporters heard her say she was a "lesbian looking for federal equality before I die".

In an interview with The Huffington Post, she said: "I was asked by the First Lady to be quiet, and I can't be quiet any longer.

"I was surprised by how negative the crowd seemed to be. It was actually a little unsettling and disturbing."

She said gay activists had been asking Mr Obama to sign the executive order for five years. "How much longer do we need to wait?"

In his first term, Mr Obama voiced his support for gay marriage and helped push the repeal of the US military's ban on openly gay service members through Congress.

But he also said he would not sign an executive order related to federal contractor hiring. Legislation to that end has not advanced in Congress.

Tuesday's event was held in the home of a lesbian couple who had previously raised money for the Obamas. Attendees had paid $500 (£326) to $10,000 for tickets.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites