Here’s Why LBGTQ Discrimination is Obama’s Latest Concern



LGBTQ rights and acceptance have made some amazing strides over the course of the last fifty years, even over the course of the past decade. In the past generation, a culture of acceptance has grown considerably for Americans of all sexual preferences and identities. Hillary Clinton spoke to that end and to the changing views in the United States recently in an interview with NPR. “I did not grow up ever imagining gay marriage, and I don’t think you probably did either. This was an incredibly new and important idea that people on the front lines of the gay rights movement began to talk about and slowly, but surely, convinced others of the rightness of that position. And when I was ready to say what I said, I said it,” said Clinton, referring to her support of same-sex marriage. The underlying tension in her words was the result of aggressive questioning on why she’d waited so long to back gay marriage — her answer quite likely an answer many of past generations can relate to.

A 2013 Pew Research poll published just over a year ago showing “The Arc of Social Acceptance” reported that 92 percent of all LGBTQ adults say that “compared with 10 years ago, society is now more accepting of people who are [LGBTQ]” as opposed to the 4 percent who say nothing has changed and the 3 percent who say that people are less accepting. Not only are people’s perception of the past versus the present positive, 92 percent also say that ten years into the future, in 2023, society will be more accepting — so the outlook is bright.

In 2011, the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy was repealed. Earlier this year, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke at the LGBTQ pride month event at the Pentagon, and later sent out additional directives for dealing with sexual assault in the military. He also gave indications that he would be open to continued review of the military’s policy on transgender individuals and their role in the military. At present, 19 states allow same-sex marriage, and court battles are being waged in many more, with Utah and Indiana seeing the most recent progress on that front.

That said, U.S. and global acceptance of the LGBTQ community and rights is hardly a finished battle, and as there is certainly more work to be done. While the LGBTQ community may have polled overwhelmingly positive when compared to the past and looking toward a hopeful future, respondents showed discrimination remains a major problem. A majority reported they had been subject to slurs or jokes about their sexual orientation or their gender identity, with 16 percent saying they had experienced this within the last year and 43 percent saying they’d experienced it prior to that year. Thirty-nine percent reported that they’d been rejected by friends or family, 30 percent said they’d been physically threatened, and 29 percent said they’d been unwelcome at a religious organization.

President Barack Obama spoke Monday night at a reception in honor of LGBTQ Pride month. “This tremendous progress in society is thanks to those of you who fought the good fight,” said Obama. “A lot’s happened in the years since we last gathered here together. Same-sex marriage has gone into effect in ten more states, which means that 43 percent of Americans now live in states where you’re free to marry who you love,” he said, going on to list the NFL drafting its first player who is openly gay, Harvey Milk’s new stamp, Laverne Cox’s (Orange Is the New Black) feature in Time, LGBTQ friendly commercials from Coca-Cola and Honey Maid, and “perhaps most importantly, Mitch and Cam got married which caused Michelle and the girls to cry.”

He also discussed policy items, from Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to a hate crimes bill, and the fight against the Defense of Marriage Act. He put a plug in about the Affordable Care Act, but added that it put in additional protection against discrimination for medical treatment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. “We’ve still got a little more work to do,” he said, putting in a barb about Congress’ inactivity, but addressing the still unpassed Employment Nondiscrimination Act and pointing out that there “are more states that let same-sex couples get married than there are state that prohibit discrimination against their [LGBTQ] workers.”

He then spoke on his intent to sign an executive order — House Speaker John Boehner will hardly be pleased — which would protect federal contractors. A second executive order will be signed by the President extending federal worker protection to gender identity alongside the protections in place for sexual orientation.

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