Presidential Proclamation– LGBT Pride Month, 2015

LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE MONTH, 2015

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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

From the moment our Nation first came together to declare the fundamental truth that all men are created equal, courageous and dedicated patriots have fought to refine our founding promise and broaden democracy’s reach.  Over the course of more than two centuries of striving and sacrifice, our country has expanded civil rights and enshrined equal protections into our Constitution.  Through struggle and setback, we see a common trajectory toward a more free and just society.  But we are also reminded that we are not truly equal until every person is afforded the same rights and opportunities — that when one of us experiences discrimination, it affects all of us — and that our journey is not complete until our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.

Across our Nation, tremendous progress has been won by determined individuals who stood up, spoke out, and shared their stories.  Earlier this year, because of my landmark Executive Order on LGBT workplace discrimination, protections for Federal contractors went into effect, guarding against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  The Federal Government is now leading by example, ensuring that our employees and contractors are judged by the quality of their work, not by who they love.  And I will keep calling on the Congress to pass legislation so that all Americans are covered by these protections, no matter where they work.

In communities throughout the country, barriers that limit the potential of LGBT Americans have been torn down, but too many individuals continue to encounter discrimination and unfair treatment.  My Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors because the overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that it can cause substantial harm.  We understand the unique challenges faced by sexual and gender minorities — especially transgender and gender non-conforming individuals — and are taking steps to address them.  And we recognize that families come in many shapes and sizes.  Whether biological, foster, or adoptive, family acceptance is an important protective factor against suicide and harm for LGBTQ youth, and mental health experts have created resources to support family communication and involvement.

For countless young people, it is not enough to simply say it gets better; we must take action too.  We continue to address bullying and harassment in our classrooms, ensuring every student has a nurturing environment in which to learn and grow. Across the Federal Government, we are working every day to unlock the opportunities all LGBT individuals deserve and the resources and care they need.  Too many LGBTQ youth face homelessness and too many older individuals struggle to find welcoming and affordable housing; that is why my Administration is striving to ensure they have equal access to safe and supportive housing throughout life.  We are updating our National HIV/AIDS Strategy to better address the disproportionate burden HIV has on communities of gay and bisexual men and transgender women.  We continue to extend family and spousal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.  And because we know LGBT rights are human rights, we are championing protections and support for LGBT persons around the world.

All people deserve to live with dignity and respect, free from fear and violence, and protected against discrimination, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, we celebrate the proud legacy LGBT individuals have woven into the fabric of our Nation, we honor those who have fought to perfect our Union, and we continue our work to build a society where every child grows up knowing that their country supports them, is proud of them, and has a place for them exactly as they are.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2015 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.  I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.

President Barack Obama's signature

BARACK OBAMA

Source:  The White House,  “Presidential Proclamation– LGBT Pride Month, 2015,”  Office of the Press Secretary, May 29, 2015

Obama: ‘I Think The Equal Protection Clause Does Guarantee Same-Sex Marriage’ In All States

President Barack Obama seems to have changed his tune on gay marriage, telling The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin he believes same-sex couples in all 50 states should be allowed to marry under the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

Obama first publicly backed gay marriage in May 2012, but noted he thought the issue should be left to the states. Speaking with Toobin for the Oct. 27 issue of The New Yorker, Obama said the best Supreme Court decision since he took office was the recent rejection of gay marriage appeals from five states, a move the president said is “a consequential and powerful signal of the changes that have taken place in society and that the law is having to catch up.”

While Obama said the high court “was not quite ready” to “indicate an equal-protection right across the board,” he personally believes same-sex marriage is protected under that clause. From The New Yorker:

Obama opposed marriage equality until May of 2012. He told me that he now believes the Constitution requires all states to allow same-sex marriage, an argument that his Administration has not yet made before the Supreme Court. “Ultimately, I think the Equal Protection Clause does guarantee same-sex marriage in all fifty states,” he said. “But, as you know, courts have always been strategic. There have been times where the stars were aligned and the Court, like a thunderbolt, issues a ruling like Brown v. Board of Education, but that’s pretty rare. And, given the direction of society, for the Court to have allowed the process to play out the way it has may make the shift less controversial and more lasting.

“The bulk of my nominees, twenty years ago or even ten years ago, would have been considered very much centrists, well within the mainstream of American jurisprudence, not particularly fire-breathing or ideologically driven,” Obama went on. “So the fact that now Democratic appointees and Republican appointees tend to vote differently on issues really has more to do with the shift in the Republican Party and in the nature of Republican-appointed jurists … Democrats haven’t moved from where they were.”

The federal government has extended federal benefits to same-sex married couples in states where gay marriage has been legalized, most recently giving benefits to those in the five states where the gay marriage appeals were rejected.

Read Toobin’s entire piece on Obama at The New Yorker.

Source:  The Huffington Post, “Obama: ‘I Think The Equal Protection Clause Does Guarantee Same-Sex Marriage’ In All States,” By Posted: 10/20/2014 9:22 am EDT Updated: 4 hours ago

Obama Signs Executive Order On LGBT Job Discrimination

President Barack Obama signed an executive order banning workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors. | ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Barack Obama signed an executive order banning workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors. | ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday signed an executive order banning workplace discrimination against millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors and the federal government.

The executive order has two parts: It makes it illegal to fire or harass employees of federal contractors based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and it explicitly bans discrimination against transgender employees of the federal government. The part targeting federal contractors affects 24,000 companies employing roughly 28 million workers, or about one-fifth of the nation’s workforce.

“America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people,” Obama said during remarks at the White House just before signing the order. “I’m going to do what I can with the authority I have to act.”

The provision affecting federal employees takes effect immediately, while employees of federal contractors will have their new protections in place by early next year, according to senior administration officials.

To the relief of the LGBT community, Obama did not include a sweeping religious exemption in the executive order — something the community feared could happen in the wake of last month’s Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case.

Instead, Obama simply added the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity to an existing executive order that protects employees of federal contractors from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. President George W. Bush amended that executive order in 2002 to allow religiously affiliated federal contractors to prioritize hiring employees of their particular religion, however, and Obama is keeping that language intact.

Obama is fulfilling a 2008 campaign promise with his action targeting federal contractors. His action affecting federal employees, meanwhile, responds to what some have described as a shortcoming in existing governmental rules. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in 2012 that the federal ban on sex discrimination covers transgender discrimination, but those affected by that rule change say the government hasn’t been enforcing it and that they continue to be discriminated against.

It is still legal in 32 states to fire or harass someone at work for being LGBT. Congress could remedy that by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which already passed the Senate. But Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has refused to bring the bill up for a vote in the House.

Source:  Huffington Post, “Obama Signs Executive Order On LGBT Job Discrimination,” by Jennifer Bendery, jen.bendery@huffingtonpost.com, Posted: 07/21/2014 10:50 am EDT Updated: 18 minutes ag0

Under Obama, Windsor Implementation Constitutes the Largest Conferral of LGBT Rights in History

Earlier today, the Justice Department released a report detailing the Obama administration’s broad implementation of the Supreme Court’s United States v. Windsor decision, which struck down key components of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last year.  Under the leadership of President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, the breadth with which this administration has implemented the Windsor decision constitutes the single largest conferral of rights to LGBT people in history.

“President Obama’s advocacy on behalf of LGBT people is nothing less than historic,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin.  “We are incredibly grateful to both the president and Attorney General Eric Holder for keeping their promise of fighting to wipe out anti-LGBT discrimination at the federal level.  There is no question that the lives of LGBT people today are immeasurably better today than they were before this president took office.

“The administration’s sweeping interpretation and implementation of the Windsor decision has led to greatest conferral of equal rights, benefits and obligations to LGBT people in our nation’s history. In record time, Attorney General Holder has moved heaven and earth to guarantee equality, and the LGBT community could not ask for a better partner in progress.”

Today’s report also identifies that the administration is unable to extend some Social Security and Veterans benefits to married same-sex couples living in states that do not recognize their marriages. The Justice Department has determined that statutory references to “state of domicile” or similar terms require Congress to pass legislation to amend the statues to provide for a “state of celebration” standard.

Also included in the report was an announcement that the VA Acting Secretary will allow for same-sex couples to be buried together in a national cemetery.  Furthermore, the Social Security administration will begin extending survivor benefits, lump sum death benefits and aged spouse benefits to same-sex couples if one partner is eligible to inherit from the other partner under state law.  This would include couples with civil unions or domestic partnerships from states like Colorado, Nevada and Wisconsin.

Just prior to the release of the report, the Department of Labor issued a notice of proposed rulemaking which will permit same-sex couples to access leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regardless of state of residence. The Office of Personnel Management also announced its intent to extend family leave to all federal employees who are married to a same-sex spouse.

Source:  HRC Blog, “Under Obama, Windsor Implementation Constitutes the Largest Conferral of LGBT Rights in History,” June 20, 2014 by HRC staff

Obama Executive Order Is ‘Single Largest Expansion Of LGBT Workplace Protections’

Image : Official White House Photo by Pete Souza via Flickr. Post image for Obama Executive Order Is ‘Single Largest Expansion Of LGBT Workplace Protections’

The White House’s acknowledgment that President Barack Obama intends to sign an executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors and their employees has become the news of the day — possibly the top LGBT news story of the year.

The executive order, once signed, will affect about 16 million employees of federal contractors. It’s not yet clear, although likely, that there will be strong religious exemptions in the language.

Exactly one year and three days ago, The New Civil Rights Movement reported:

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden hosted their annual LGBT pride month celebration today in the White House — something no other president has ever done — and while speaking to perhaps over one hundred invited LGBT activists, journalists, and allies, offered nothing new.

…as the President started talking about LGBT discrimination in the workplace, activists in the room and watching live around the nation wondered if he would surprise them with a special announcement: an executive order for all federal contractors banning anti-LGBT discrimination.

Of course, there was none.

Zack Ford at Think Progress weighs in to frame today’s historic news:

The protections will reach over one million LGBT workers across the country, making it the single largest expansion of LGBT workplace protections in our country’s history. There continue to be 29 states that offer no employment protections on the basis of sexual orientation and 32 with no protections based on gender identity, but many LGBT workers in those states will now have workplace protections for the first time ever. As many as 43 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and 90 percent of transgender people have experienced some form of harassment or discrimination in the workplace.

As many as 9 out of 10 voters believe federal law already protects LGBT workers from discrimination. Though this isn’t true, many of the country’s biggest companies do already have corporate policies prohibiting such discrimination. Businesses of all sizes have found that nondiscrimination protections are good for their bottom line, improving the recruitment, retention, and productivity of talented employees and appealing to a wider customer base. A new Human Rights Campaign poll finds that 63 percent of voters support federal LGBT employment protections.

Though Obama had pledged to sign such an executive order during his 2008 campaign, his administration had previously rejected calls for such an executive order for over three years. Press Secretary Jay Carney regularly referred to it as “hypothetical,” stating that the White House preferred a legislative solution for LGBT protections in the form of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Despite ENDA’s passage in the Senate last fall, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has made it clear that there is “no way” it will pass this year.

And that “no way” from Speaker Boehner may have led the President and his administration to move on this long-sought executive order. President Obama clearly has realized that the Republican House and Republican Senators would rather risk losing an election than allow him to win any additional legislative achievements. They have forced his hand — and his pen to paper.

Source: The New Civil Rights Movement, “Obama Executive Order Is ‘Single Largest Expansion Of LGBT Workplace Protections’,” by David Badash on June 16, 2014