During Pride Month, President Obama Vows to Make Progress on LGBT Issues
June 28, 2010
"The fact that we've got activists here is important because it's a reminder that change never comes, or at least never begins, in Washington. It begins with acts of compassion -- and sometimes defiance -- across America." These were the opening words from U.S. President Barack Obama as he spoke at the White House's LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Pride Month Reception on June 22. Obama took the opportunity to defend the progress his administration has made for LGBT rights, and to outline additional measures he's striving towards:
- At last year's Pride reception, Obama promised to pass hate crime legislation. The Matthew Shepard act passed and was signed into law last October.
- Obama and Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, are working together to ensure that hospitals that participate in Medicare or Medicaid allow gay and lesbian partners and their families the same privileges (including visitation rights) as straight partners.
- Obama has issued an executive order to extend as many partnership benefits to LGBT federal employees as possible. He also noted that he would "continue to fight to change the law: to guarantee gay federal employees the exact same benefits as straight employees -- including access to health insurance and retirement plans."
- To great applause, Obama said, "No one in America should be fired because they're gay. It's not right, it's not who we are as Americans, and we are going to put a stop to it." To do so, he says he will push to pass an inclusive employee non-discrimination bill, and has asked Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.
- Finally, Obama spoke about the progress that's been made on his campaign promise to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. "The only way to lock this in is if we work with the Pentagon," he noted. "We have never been closer to ending this discriminatory policy. And I'm going to keep on fighting until that bill is on my desk and I can sign it."
Obama concluded his speech optimistically, praising young LGBT people -- particularly activists -- for standing up for themselves and their rights. "I believe because of them that the future is bright. It's certainly bright for them," Obama said. "And I want you all to know that as this work continues, I'm going to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you, fighting by your side every step of the way."
You can watch a video of the reception below, or read the transcript at whitehouse.gov.
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