Today is the first day of June, and thus the beginning of Pride Month. My friends (and readers) have no doubt all figured out that I’m an openly gay man who supports equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in this country and around the world, so it should come as no surprise that I’m pleased that Pride Month is upon us… But I’m even more pleased to count the President of the United States among supporters of LGBT equality.
From a proclamation issued yesterday by President Barack Obama:
The story of America’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community is the story of our fathers and sons, our mothers and daughters, and our friends and neighbors who continue the task of making our country a more perfect Union. It is a story about the struggle to realize the great American promise that all people can live with dignity and fairness under the law. Each June, we commemorate the courageous individuals who have fought to achieve this promise for LGBT Americans, and we rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
That first paragraph sums it up nicely, don’t you think? LGBT issues are human issues. LGBT people are a part of our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, our military, our government, and our lives. What we want is the same opportunity to live our lives, love those we hold dear, go to work or school or anyplace else without fear of discrimination and persecution, and to be recognized as equal under the law.
This Administration has helped push LGBT issues along with some progress, as the Presidential Proclamation went on to highlight:
Since taking office, my Administration has made significant progress towards achieving equality for LGBT Americans. Last December, I was proud to sign the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. With this repeal, gay and lesbian Americans will be able to serve openly in our Armed Forces for the first time in our Nation’s history. Our national security will be strengthened and the heroic contributions these Americans make to our military, and have made throughout our history, will be fully recognized.
My Administration has also taken steps to eliminate discrimination against LGBT Americans in Federal housing programs and to give LGBT Americans the right to visit their loved ones in the hospital. We have made clear through executive branch nondiscrimination policies that discrimination on the basis of gender identity in the Federal workplace will not be tolerated. I have continued to nominate and appoint highly qualified, openly LGBT individuals to executive branch and judicial positions. Because we recognize that LGBT rights are human rights, my Administration stands with advocates of equality around the world in leading the fight against pernicious laws targeting LGBT persons and malicious attempts to exclude LGBT organizations from full participation in the international system. We led a global campaign to ensure “sexual orientation” was included in the United Nations resolution on extrajudicial execution — the only United Nations resolution that specifically mentions LGBT people — to send the unequivocal message that no matter where it occurs, state-sanctioned killing of gays and lesbians is indefensible. No one should be harmed because of who they are or who they love, and my Administration has mobilized unprecedented public commitments from countries around the world to join in the fight against hate and homophobia.
At home, we are working to address and eliminate violence against LGBT individuals through our enforcement and implementation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. We are also working to reduce the threat of bullying against young people, including LGBT youth. My Administration is actively engaged with educators and community leaders across America to reduce violence and discrimination in schools. To help dispel the myth that bullying is a harmless or inevitable part of growing up, the First Lady and I hosted the first White House Conference on Bullying Prevention in March. Many senior Administration officials have also joined me in reaching out to LGBT youth who have been bullied by recording “It Gets Better” video messages to assure them they are not alone.
Great steps, all of these. However, I’m still looking forward to a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that protects LGBT Americans (and those of other demographics or groups that are actively discriminated against with no legal protections) from being negatively impacted in the workplace because of prejudice. And of course, I’m looking forward to full marriage equality in all fifty states, so that committed and loving LGBT couples are no longer second-class citizens deprived of over one thousand legal rights and privileges because their partner is of the same gender.
The Presidential Proclamation went on to address other issues of importance to the LGBT community:
This month also marks the 30th anniversary of the emergence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which has had a profound impact on the LGBT community. Though we have made strides in combating this devastating disease, more work remains to be done, and I am committed to expanding access to HIV/AIDS prevention and care. Last year, I announced the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States. This strategy focuses on combinations of evidence-based approaches to decrease new HIV infections in high risk communities, improve care for people living with HIV/AIDS, and reduce health disparities. My Administration also increased domestic HIV/AIDS funding to support the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and HIV prevention, and to invest in HIV/AIDS-related research. However, government cannot take on this disease alone. This landmark anniversary is an opportunity for the LGBT community and allies to recommit to raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and continuing the fight against this deadly pandemic.
Glad to see continuing focus here… And of course I agree with the statement that HIV/AIDS “has had a profound impact on the LGBT community.” I do hope that the government’s efforts to fight HIV/AIDS continue to emphasize that this is not a gay issue, but rather a human issue — HIV/AIDS has long since spread to all demographics, all sexual orientations, all genders and ethnicities. It’s something that can impact anyone, and deserves to be treated as a global human problem (not just a “gay problem.”)
In the end, I’ll let the President have the final word:
Every generation of Americans has brought our Nation closer to fulfilling its promise of equality. While progress has taken time, our achievements in advancing the rights of LGBT Americans remind us that history is on our side, and that the American people will never stop striving toward liberty and justice for all.
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 2011 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 thirty-first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.