Advocate Equal Treatment Of Same-Sex Couples
"As your president, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws."-- Obama letter to LGBT Americans
JUNE 02, 2010
Benefits Extended To Partners Of Gay Employees
President Obama issued a memorandum requiring that the partners of gay federal employees be extended more benefits, adding to the list that the president had already conferred last year.
The Washington Post reports that a review conducted by the Office of Personnel Management and the Justice Department found that more changes could legally be made without Congress' action. So some agencies will soon begin to "permit credit union and gym memberships and access to counseling services, adoption counseling, and agency events or outings." Meanwhile, "a limited number of intelligence and financial regulatory agencies… will be able to provide reimbursements for health-insurance premiums, dental and vision insurance, business travel accident insurance and tax reimbursements for gym memberships, physical exams and homeowners' insurance."
APRIL 15, 2010
Hospitals Ordered To Allow Visitation
In a memorandum directing all hospitals that participate in Medicare or Medicaid to begin extending visitation rights to partners in same-sex couples, Obama called attention to those "who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives -- unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated."
OCTOBER 10, 2009
In Speech, Obama Notes His Support For Gay Couples
Obama spoke at a gala hosted by the Human Rights Campaign the day before an equality protest arrived on the National Mall, and used the speech to highlight his commitment to treating gay families equally.
“I support ensuring that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country,” he said. “I believe strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away and passing laws that extend equal rights to gay couples.”
Obama noted that he and the first lady invited gay families to participate in the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House “because we want to send a message.” He also reiterated support for passage of the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act, which would extend full federal benefits to same-sex couples.
AUGUST 17, 2009
Justice Department Calls DOMA 'Discriminatory'
In a new brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act, the Justice Department erased the controversial tone that had once forced Obama to invite angry gay leaders to the White House for a reconciliatory reception. In their newest attempt at defending a law the administration opposes, lawyers now brand the policy as "discriminatory."
The department's first attempt at defending DOMA -- which it's required to do -- was filled with arguments against homosexuality that are often made by the religious right. It equated gay marriage to legalizing incest and pedophilia.
The resulting uproar in the gay community led Obama to grant some benefits to partners of gay federal employees. But when critics pointed out health care wasn't included, the White House hosted an event where Obama, flanked by the first lady, tried to explain his "duty to uphold existing law" but conceded "we must do so in a way that does not exacerbate old divides." He also had to make the case that health care benefits couldn’t be granted to spouses without an act of Congress.
The new brief drops the inflammatory arguments and reiterates several times the administration’s stance.
"With respect to the merits, this Administration does not support DOMA as a matter of policy, believes that it is discriminatory, and supports its repeal," it states. "Consistent with the rule of law, however, the Department of Justice has long followed the practice of defending federal statutes as long as reasonable arguments can be made in support of their constitutionality, even if the department disagrees with a particular statute as a policy matter, as it does here."
And in case that wasn't clear enough, Obama issued an official statement separating himself from the department's former tack: "This brief makes clear… that my Administration believes that the Act is discriminatory and should be repealed by Congress."
AUGUST 12, 2009
Medal Of Freedom Awarded To Gay Trailblazers
Obama used the Congressional Medal of Freedom to highlight gay rights and the accomplishments of two openly gay luminaries -- politician Harvey Milk and tennis legend Billie Jean King.
The two are the first openly gay people to ever receive the award, which was also presented to 14 others, including Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and actor Sidney Poitier. In his remarks, the president praised Milk for inspiring hope as he became the country’s first openly gay elected official. Although Milk was assassinated, Obama said "his message of hope -- hope unashamed, hope unafraid -- could not ever be silenced." Of King, he admired "what she did to broaden the reach of the game, to change how women athletes and women everywhere view themselves, and to give everyone -- regardless of gender or sexual orientation -- including my two daughters -- a chance to compete both on the court and in life."
JUNE 03, 2009
Obama: I'm A 'Friend' To Gay People
In an interview, NBC News anchor Brian Williams asked the president whether "gay and lesbian couples who wish to marry in this country have a friend in the White House." This is how President Obama answered:
I think that gays and lesbians have a friend in the White House because I've consistently committed myself to civil unions, making sure they have the ability to visit each other in hospitals, that they are able to access benefits, that they have a whole host of legal rights that they currently do not have. I don't think that it makes sense for the federal government to get in the business of determining what marriage is. That isn't traditionally the federal government's role.
APRIL 09, 2009
Obama Quiet On Marriage Recognition
Obama's spokesman avoided a chance to comment on the rash of changes to same-sex marriage laws made recently around the country. In the following exchange with a reporter, press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked for the administration's opinion on D.C.'s plan to recognize gay marriages made in other parts of the country. Congress could have the opportunity to overturn the city council's decision.
Q: And is there any take here on the move by the city council to OK gay marriages elsewhere in the city?
D.C. made news as one of a string of changes. Also in April, lawmakers in Vermont overruled the governor to recognize same-sex marriages and Iowa courts ruled that gay people must be allowed to marry. Earlier, a spokesman for Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas invoked the the president's campaign statements while defending his decision to veto same-sex marriage, CNN.com reports. "Governor Douglas agrees with President Obama that marriage is between a man and a woman. He supports Vermont's current civil union law, which provides equal rights, benefits and responsibilities to Vermonters in civil unions," said spokeswoman Dennise Casey.
DECEMBER 18, 2008
Rick Warren Selection Riles LGBT Supporters
President Obama selected Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration, triggering a backlash from gay rights supporters offended by Warren’s support for Proposition 8 in California and by his statements comparing same-sex marriage to incest and child molestation. Obama has never supported gay marriage, but he defended the Warren invitation during a news conference as an example of cooperation with people with which he disagrees, showing he will also use the bully pulpit to spark conversation.
"It is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something that I have been consistent on and something that I intend to be consistent on during my presidency," Obama said, reiterating his promise. "What I have also said is that it is important for Americans to come together even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues."