.- President Obama and leaders in his administration have made many statements to mark âLGBT Pride Month,â calling for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of anti-discrimination laws to advance the LGBT âagendaâ 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 âmatters of basic equalityâ despite âenormous challengesâ for the economy and for foreign policy.
He claimed to have made âextraordinary progressâ on LGBT political issues, pointing to the passage of a âhate crimesâ act and to proposed changes to the militaryâs âDonât Ask, Donât Tellâ policy barring open homosexuals from service.
The president also announced a proposed federal rule that any hospital participating in Medicare or Medicaid, meaning âmost hospitals,â give homosexual partners the same privileges and visitation rights as âstraight partners.â 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).
âBecause 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),â the president continued. âWe are pushing hard to pass an inclusive employee non-discrimination bill.â
For their part, the U.S. Catholic bishops have voiced âserious concernsâ about the proposed Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), saying it would âspecially protectâ 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 âcelebratingâ LGBT Month at the Loy Henderson Auditorium in Washington, D.C.
âWe 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,â she commented. âAnd 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.â
âIn 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,â she continued.
She said it was âextraordinaryâ what has happened on these issues âin such a short period of time.â The State Department, she said, will continue to advance âa comprehensive human rights agenda that includes the elimination of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.â
The Bureau of African Affairs, Clinton informed her audience, has asked every embassy in Africa to report on âthe conditions of local LGBT communities.â
âIâm asking every regional bureau to make this issue a priority,â she continued, noting how U.S. Ambassador to Albania John Withers went on television to publicly express support for Klodian Cela, a man who âcame outâ on the television program Big Brother. She reported that Keith Eddins, a U.S. chargÃ© to Slovakia, also marched to represent the United States in the countryâs first Pride Parade.
âSo as we continue to advance LGBT rights in other countries, we also must continually work to make sure we are advancing the agenda here,â commented Secretary Clinton, later adding âthe struggle for equality is never, ever finished.â
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 âgender identityâ to the U.S. legal code and claimed that a bill against âhate crimesâ would âfinallyâ protect LGBT individuals from bias-motivated violence.
Holder said it was an âimportant developmentâ 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 âeffectively recruit, hire, retain and develop a workforce that reflects our nationâs rich diversity, a Department that welcomes and encourages the contributions of its LGBT employees.â
He said there was âmuch more workâ to be done to help LGBT employees âserve openly, with pride.â
President Obama also chose to extend his advocacy to include his Father's Day proclamation, in which he praised families with âtwo fathers.â He also did the same for those with âtwo mothersâ on Motherâs 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.