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A look back: President Obama’s LGBTI legacy is one for the ages

A look back: President Obama’s LGBTI legacy is one for the ages

Ellen DeGeneres received the highest civilian honor a person can receive in the US from President Barack Obama.

President Barack Obama leaves office this week as the strongest advocate the LGBTI community has ever had in The White House.

Here are 10 of Obama and his administration’s historic accomplishments and gestures during his eight years in office when it comes to LGBTI equality.

Support of marriage equality

In May 2012, Obama made history by becoming the first sitting US President to support same-sex marriage.

‘I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly,’ Obama said in an interview with ABC News.

‘… It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples be able to get married.’

Obama’s historic announcement came amid mounting pressure on him to take a stand on an issue that he had previously said he was still ‘evolving on.’

It also came during an election year when he was running for a second term.

Demise of Defense of Marriage Act

By the time the US Supreme Court had gutted the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, Obama had helped set the stage by ordering then-Attorney General Eric Holder not to defend DOMA in any federal trial because DOMA was unconstitutional.

That led to success in the Supreme Court and eventually the awarding of equal marriage rights in all 50 states.

End of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The commander-in-chief signed a bill repealing the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military after on 23 December 2010 after more than 13,000 troops had been discharged under the policy.

He said on the fifth anniversary of the repeal: ‘Because of all we’ve accomplished together, a grieving widow can now receive her wife’s flag at her funeral. A spouse can now be part of his husband’s promotion ceremony.

‘One person told me he had been torn between his desire to serve his country and his longing to live life openly as a gay man. He no longer is forced to make that choice. And just last summer, he was commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy.’

Federal Hate Crimes legislation

In October 2009 Obama signed into law The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Among other things, it expands federal hate-crime laws to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

After her gay son Matthew’s murder, Judy Shepard worked tirelessly for passage of the bill.

Obama said in a 2012 campaign video: ‘Meeting people like Judy Shepard, and not only hearing the heartbreaking tragedy of Matthew but also the strength and determination she brought to make sure that never happens to young people anywhere in the country again … those stories made me passionate about the issue.’

Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, was signed into law in March 2010.

Because of the new law, insurers could no longer legally turn someone away just because he or she is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

It also makes it easier for people living with HIV and AIDS to obtain Medicaid and private health insurance and overcome barriers to care from qualified providers.

Hospital visitation rights

In 2010, Obama issued a presidential memorandum that required hospitals that take Medicare or Medicaid – which is just about every hospital in the US – to ‘respect the rights of patients to designate visitors.’

This gives LGBTI non-family hospital visitation rights.

Transgender rights

Obama’s administration took some unprecedented steps to protect and promote the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming students.

Federal guidance was issued stating that transgender students be allowed to use the bathroom at public schools that matches their gender identity.

The rules are being fought in court by several states.

LGBT Workplace Discrimination protections

In July 2014, Obama signed an Executive Order forbidding federal contractors and subcontractors to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The order effects an estimated 28 million workers – approximately one in five of the US workforce.
White_House_Rainbow
Rainbow White House

On the day in June 2015 when the US Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal across the country, the White House was illuminated in rainbow colors in celebration.

‘One of the most special moments of my presidency was that warm summer night last June when we lit up the White House out there,’ Obama said at the eight and final LGBT Pride Reception of his presidency last June.

‘It was a powerful symbol here at home, where more Americans finally felt accepted and whole, and that their country recognized the love that they felt. It was a beacon for people around the world who are still fighting for those rights.’

Stonewall Inn national monument Last June, Obama announced that the Stonewall Inn – the birthplace of the modern LGBTI rights movement – had been declared a national monument.

‘Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights,’ Obama said.

‘I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country – the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us. That we are stronger together. That out of many, we are one.’