President Barack Obama told over one hundred invited guests, journalists, and public officials at his annual LGBT Pride Month reception at the White House today that many hearts, minds, and laws have moved towards equality during the course of his administration, but much work remains to be done.
The President ticked off a long list of LGBT rights milestones achieved since he took office in 2009, including the passage of the Matthew Shepard Act, strengthening the Violence Against Women Act to protect LGBT victims, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the implementation of policies that treat transgender Americans “with dignity and respect,” and the administration’s order to hospitals that accept Medicare and Medicaid funds that they treat all patients equally.
“[From] Minnesota to Maryland, from the United States Senate to the NBA, it’s clear we’re reaching a turning point,” Obama said. “We’ve become not just more accepting; we’ve become more loving, as a country, and as a people.”
Obama also told the story of Susan, a PFLAG mom from Ohio, who wrote to him expressing concern about the harassment many LGBT people experience in the workplace. He said he shared Susan’s concern, and reiterated his support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA):
“In 34 states, you can be fired just because of who you are or who you love. That’s wrong. We’ve got to change it. There’s a bipartisan bill moving forward in the Senate that would ban discrimination against all LGBT Americans in the workplace, now and forever. We need to get that passed. I want to sign that bill. We need to get it done now. And I think we can make that happen — because after the last four and a half years, you can’t tell me things can’t happen.”
However, Obama did not commit to signing an executive order forbidding federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people in the workplace, despite increasing pressure from activists, LGBT organizations, and gay and lesbian members of Congress to do so.
Obama promised to “keep pushing” for the LGBT community by expanding access to affordable health care for people with HIV, supporting efforts in states like Illinois to legalize marriage equality, and implementing the LGBT protections in the Affordable Care Act.
He also mentioned his commitment to fighting for better and safer schools, and to protecting kids from gun violence, saying that recent setbacks in the push for tighter gun safety laws show that progressive change doesn’t always come smoothly:
“…as we saw earlier this year with the gun safety debate, sometimes this stuff takes time, and it’s frustrating. You take two steps forward and sometimes there’s a step back. But I deeply believe in something that Martin Luther King, Jr. said often, and that is that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. Eventually, America gets it right.
That doesn’t mean we can be patient. We know from our own history that change happens because people push to make it happen. We’ve got to do the hard work of educating others, showing empathy to others, changing hearts and minds. And when we do that, then change occurs. It doesn’t come always as quickly as we like, but progress comes.”
The full text of President Obama’s remarks at the reception for LGBT Pride Month, after the jump. Continue reading