President Obama and leaders in his administration have made many statements to mark “LGBT Pride Month,” calling for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of anti-discrimination laws to advance the LGBT “agenda” in the U.S. and overseas. They characterized opponents as foes of progress.
On Tuesday President Obama spoke at Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) Pride Month Reception in the East Room of the White House. He noted his pledge not to put aside “matters of basic equality” despite “enormous challenges” for the economy and for foreign policy.
He claimed to have made “extraordinary progress” on LGBT political issues, pointing to the passage of a “hate crimes” act and to proposed changes to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy barring open homosexuals from service.
The president also announced a proposed federal rule that any hospital participating in Medicare or Medicaid, meaning “most hospitals,” give homosexual partners the same privileges and visitation rights as “straight partners.” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius has sent a letter to these hospitals asking them to adopt the changes now.
Recipients of the letter include Sr. Carol Keehan, head of the Catholic Health Association (CHA).
“Because I believe in committed -- I believe that committed gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country, I have called for Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA),” the president continued. “We are pushing hard to pass an inclusive employee non-discrimination bill.”
For their part, the U.S. Catholic bishops have voiced “serious concerns” about the proposed Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), saying it would “specially protect” any sexual conduct outside of marriage, threaten religious freedom and punish Catholic teachings as discriminatory.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at a Tuesday event “celebrating” LGBT Month at the Loy Henderson Auditorium in Washington, D.C.
“We celebrate the progress that is being made here in our own country toward advancing the rights of LGBT Americans, and we recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done but that we are moving together in the right direction,” she commented. “And we reaffirm our commitment to protect and advance the rights of all human beings, as Cheryl just said, of members of the LGBT community around the world.”
“In some places, violence against the LGBT community is permitted by law and inflamed by public calls to violence; in others, it persists insidiously behind closed doors,” she continued.
She said it was “extraordinary” what has happened on these issues “in such a short period of time.” The State Department, she said, will continue to advance “a comprehensive human rights agenda that includes the elimination of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The Bureau of African Affairs, Clinton informed her audience, has asked every embassy in Africa to report on “the conditions of local LGBT communities.”
“I’m asking every regional bureau to make this issue a priority,” she continued, noting how U.S. Ambassador to Albania John Withers went on television to publicly express support for Klodian Cela, a man who “came out” on the television program Big Brother. She reported that Keith Eddins, a U.S. chargé to Slovakia, also marched to represent the United States in the country’s first Pride Parade.
“So as we continue to advance LGBT rights in other countries, we also must continually work to make sure we are advancing the agenda here,” commented Secretary Clinton, later adding “the struggle for equality is never, ever finished.”
On June 21, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the Department of Justice's 2010 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month program. In his remarks, he praised the addition of “gender identity” to the U.S. legal code and claimed that a bill against “hate crimes” would “finally” protect LGBT individuals from bias-motivated violence.
Holder said it was an ‘important development” that the Department of Justice had ruled that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) covers and protects same-sex partners.
He also noted his announcement of a Diversity Management Plan and the appointment of Channing Phillips as Deputy Associate Attorney General for Diversity. This initiative, in his words, would ensure that the Department can “effectively recruit, hire, retain and develop a workforce that reflects our nation’s rich diversity, a Department that welcomes and encourages the contributions of its LGBT employees.”
He said there was “much more work” to be done to help LGBT employees “serve openly, with pride.”
President Obama also chose to extend his advocacy to include his Father's Day proclamation, in which he praised families with “two fathers.” He also did the same for those with “two mothers” on Mother’s Day. His remarks drew fire from critics who said he politicized a national event, overlooked severe dysfunction among homosexuals, and obscured the need for a child to have both a mother and a father.