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SOTU PREVIEW: A Look Back at President Obama’s Legacy on LGBT Equality

by HRC .com January 11, 2016

SOTU PREVIEW: A Look Back at President Obama’s Legacy on LGBT Equality

From a record number of appointments of LGBT judges and ambassadors, to the institution of far-reaching administrative and regulatory policy changes, President Barack Obama has been a stalwart champion of the LGBT community.

President Obama has signed the the most significant pieces of LGBT-inclusive legislation to be passed by Congress: The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and the first-ever LGBT-inclusive Violence Against Women Act reauthorization.

The Obama Administration has also made a record number of appointments of LGBT judges and ambassadors — part of more than 250 LGBT appointments to full-time and advisory positions in the federal government.

In 2012, Obama announced his support for marriage equality—calling marriage a fundamental  “civil right” in 2015. He later celebrated the victory at the Supreme Court, lighting up the White House in rainbow colors.

His Administration has taken great strides to protect millions in the workforce and to expand non-discrimination protections, including the HUD Equal Access Rule and Title IX transgender protections in education.

In 2010, the Administration added gender identity non-discrimination protections for federal employees. In 2015, President Obama’s Executive Order on LGBT Workplace Discrimination prohibited discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity by all federal contractors across the country. Previously, protected categories only included race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability and status as a protected veteran. Now, in the first expansion since 1974, LGBT Americans can fully enjoy these same protections.

The added standard now covers every type of new and modified federal contract. In addition, it applies to every establishment of those contractors and subcontractors – not just the ones directly involved in performing the contract.

At the beginning of 2015, Obama reiterated in his State of the Union address his commitment to full equality for LGBT Americans. He explicitly included the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and argued that LGBT Americans deserves the same protections and rights as other Americans.

The Obama Administration then threw its weight behind the movement to halt the harmful, widely debunked practice of "conversion therapy." Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, spoke out against the practice and a few months later, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) published a report calling for an end to “conversion therapy” for minors.

And in November, the White House continued its commitment to LGBT equality, announcing the President’s support for the Equality Act.

Tomorrow night, President Obama will deliver his eighth and final State of the Union address. There is still much work to be done. The patchwork of current LGBT legal protections leaves million subject to uncertainty and potential discrimination that impacts their safety, their family and their way of life. Join us in watching tomorrow to not just celebrate how far we’ve come, but to keep pressure on elected officials to continue to move the needle toward full LGBT equality.

For more on the Obama Administration’s policy advancements over the last eight years, visit

HRC .com
HRC .com


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