Standing Up for Equal Rights for LGBT Americans
By Gautam Raghavan
Thank you for taking the time to participate in the "We the People" petition process. We launched this online tool as a way of hearing directly from you, and are pleased to see that it has been effective in soliciting your feedback.
We understand your interest in ending discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans—a goal that President Obama firmly supports. In his own words: "Every single American—gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our society. It's a pretty simple proposition." The President has repeatedly taken a stand against LGBT discrimination, including with respect to the types of unfair discrimination described in the petition.
For example, as the petition notes, same-sex marriages are not currently recognized under federal law because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Section 3 of DOMA requires that federal law define marriage only as a legal union between a man and a woman. President Obama has long supported repeal of DOMA through the legislative process, and he specifically supports the Respect for Marriage Act, a DOMA repeal bill that is currently pending in both houses of Congress and was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in early November. In addition, the President and the Attorney General announced their determination that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional. The President instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending the constitutionality of that provision in the courts, and since that time, the Department has informed courts that it believes that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.
President Obama's strong opposition to DOMA is in line with his personal commitment to LGBT rights and his Administration's record in standing up against the other forms of LGBT discrimination identified in the petition. It is his Administration's policy not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in federal employment, and he supports inclusive employment non-discrimination legislation that would make it illegal for private sector employers to discriminate against LGBT Americans. The President believes this is also an issue about families and, in a recent presidential proclamation, he stated that it is important to ensure that all qualified caregivers are given the opportunity to serve as adoptive parents. In addition, the President issued a presidential memorandum requiring that all hospitals in receipt of Medicare and Medicaid funding—most hospitals in the United States—must provide equal visitation rights to gay and lesbian partners.
The President also has spoken out against the unconscionable bullying that young LGBT Americans too often face, including at an anti-bullying summit hosted at the White House earlier this year. President Obama and other Administration officials have also recorded video messages to give hope and support to young people who are being bullied or harassed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity as part of the It Gets Better campaign. As he recently said: "[W]e also have to keep sending a message to every young person in this country who might feel alone or afraid because they're gay or transgender—who may be getting picked on or pushed around because they're different. … It's wrong. It's destructive. It's never acceptable. And I want all those kids to know that the President and the First Lady [are] standing right by them every inch of the way."
Early in his Administration, the President signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, which expanded the existing hate crimes law to include crimes committed based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The President also signed into law the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell ("DADT"), ending the decades-long struggle to allow gays and lesbians to serve in the armed forces without having to lie about who they are. And the President recently issued a Presidential Memorandum articulating the first-ever U.S. Government strategy to protect and promote the human rights of LGBT people internationally.
Despite all these advances, the President recognizes "that we have a ways to go in th[is] struggle." In his words, too many LGBT Americans "are still denied their basic rights—Americans who are still made to feel like second-class citizens, who have to live a lie to keep their jobs, or who are afraid to walk the street, or down the hall at school." That is why President Obama is committed to helping end discrimination against LGBT Americans. In his words: "We are going to make progress; we are going to succeed; we are going to build a more perfect union. … That's the story of America—the slow, inexorable march towards a more perfect union."
Thank you for participating in this important process and for your commitment to equality—a commitment which President Obama shares.
For more information on President Obama's policies regarding the LGBT community, check out WhiteHouse.gov/LGBT and sign up for updates.
Gautam Raghavan is Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement
We wanted to share with you an update on this important issue.
On May 9th, 2012, in an interview with ABC News, President Obama said, "I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."
With that one statement, he made it clear that he believes that it's wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships from getting married.
Obviously, the President has spent time giving this issue serious consideration, and his view has been shaped by conversations with his family, his friends, neighbors, and the people who work with him at the White House.
In the interview, he said that he had discussed the issue around the dinner table with his wife and daughters. He said he'd heard from service members who, even after the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, felt constrained because they aren't allowed to get married.
And in the end, the President said, he believes it's important to "treat others the way you would want to be treated."