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On Monday, Mr. Obama addressed 300 gays and lesbians at the White House, saying he understands their frustration with the lag in fulfilling gay rights campaign promises.

Evan Low, the Campbell, Calif., vice mayor, was in attendance Monday. He said he had been worried Mr. Obama was “backpedaling” on his promises, but welcomed Mr. Gates’ remarks on “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“We’re all hoping for the best and we’re starting to see some signs,” Mr. Low said.

• Ben Conery contributed to this report.