Analysis: Obama’s comprehensive support for gay equality
What can lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans Americans expect from the new President of the United States?
Barack Obama, who will take the oath of office tomorrow afternoon at noon (5pm GMT), is the most gay-friendly politician to lead America.
During his campaign for the White House, the former Senator from Illinois spoke about his personal friendship with gay people.
“Michelle and I have been blessed with many openly gay and lesbian friends and colleagues whom we have been close to for many years,” he revealed in a series of written answers to a gay newspaper.
“While that fact has made the issue facing the LGBT community more personal, the fundamental reasons I have for supporting equality are greater than any individual.
“I am running for President because I believe that we as a nation need change. We need to end the divisive politics of George W Bush and pursue policies that treat all of us, regardless of identity or background, with dignity, equality and respect.”
Barack Obama became the first President-elect to acknowledge gay people in his victory speech in the early hours of November 5th.
The next President of the United States then published a comprehensive list of action he will take on gay rights.
In a statement published on the Presidential transition website, Barack Obama and the Vice President-elect, Joe Biden, committed themselves to strengthening federal hate crimes protection by passing the Matthew Shepard Act.
The President-elect also committed to support civil unions and federal rights for LGBT couples.
“Barack Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples,” the statement read.
“Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defence of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognised unions.
“These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.”
President-elect Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, “and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
“While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees’ domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy,” the statement read.
The President-elect said he would oppose a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and the prohibition on openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people serving in the US Armed Forces.
“Barack Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve.
“Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation.
“Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic.
“Obama will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defence goals.”
President-elect Obama said he believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation.
“A child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not,” the statement read.
The new administration will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies within 12 months of taking office.
“The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities,” the statement read.
“Obama will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system.
“Obama also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users.
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“Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma — too often tied to homophobia — that continues to surround HIV/AIDS. He will continue to speak out on this issue as President.”
The statement quotes a speech President-elect Obama gave in June 2007:
“While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do.
“Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans.
“It’s about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect.”
Not since Tony Blair took office in 1997 has a national leader indicated such across-the-board support for LGBT rights.