June 1, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
Obama includes support for marriage equality in Pride proclamation
Barack Obama, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, gay news, gay politics dc, Washington Blade

President Obama mentions marriage in his 2012 Pride proclamation (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Obama for the first time included support for marriage rights for gay couples in his annual proclamation commemorating June as the month of Pride.

The president — who has issued a Pride proclamation for each of the four years in office — notes his personal support for marriage rights for gay couples in the 2012 proclamation issued on Friday following his recent announcement in favor of same-sex marriage during an ABC News interview. Last year’s proclamation made no mention whatsoever of relationship recognition for gay couples.

“And because we must treat others the way we want to be treated, I personally believe in marriage equality for same-sex couples,” Obama writes.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, redoubled his previous praise for Obama when asked about the inclusion of marriage equality in the Pride proclamation.

“Support for the freedom to marry — like strong, authentic leadership — is good for the country and a political winner,” Wolfson said. “President Obama is showing both.”

Obama makes a special note to include LGBT people in the larger American story of “a proud and inexorable march toward freedom, fairness, and full equality under the law,” saying no one in the country should be deemed a second-class citizen or denied basic rights.

“The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has written a proud chapter in this fundamentally American story,” Obama writes. “From brave men and women who came out and spoke out, to union and faith leaders who rallied for equality, to activists and advocates who challenged unjust laws and marched on Washington, LGBT Americans and allies have achieved what once seemed inconceivable. This month, we reflect on their enduring legacy, celebrate the movement that has made progress possible, and recommit to securing the fullest blessings of freedom for all Americans.”

The president also ticks off other accomplishments over his nearly three-and-a-half years in office, including legislative repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” passage of hate crimes protections legislation, the enactment of a federal rule prohibiting LGBT discrimination in federal housing and a memorandum mandating hospitals offer visitation rights for same-sex couples.

The proclamation also states “more remains to be done to ensure every single American is treated equally, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity” and says the Obama administration will continue to move forward in this area. However, the president makes no specific mention of further achievements that he wants to pursue.

Absent from the proclamation is any mention of the lack of federal employment non-discrimation protections for LGBT workers. In April, the White House announced that it wouldn’t issue at this time an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, opting instead to pursue legislation to institute these protections known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said he’s “not surprised that White House staffers” excluded any mention of employment non-discrimination for the proclamation because “workplace fairness for LGBT Americans is the one area of weakness and embarrassment in an otherwise impressive record of accomplishment by President Barack Obama.” Still, Almeida offered general praise.

“I think that overall the Proclamation is beautifully written and I am heartened that it mentions the need to make more progress on work that remains undone,” Almeida said.

Almeida said Pride month would be an “excellent time” for the White House to reconsider its decision and issue an executive order barring LGBT job bias. Additionally, Almeida called on Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to issue guidance this month saying the existing directive prohibiting sex discrimination will cover transgender workers to keep in line with a recent U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruling.

Obama isn’t the only public official on the national stage to issue a statement commemorating June as the month of Pride. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also issued a statement reflecting on the achievements of the LGBT community.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

“During LGBT Pride Month, we celebrate how far we’ve come in the fight for civil rights, we pledge to keep working to ensure our nation lives up to the American ideal of equality, our heritage and our hope,” Pelosi said. “Since the dark days of the Stonewall riots more than four decades ago, millions of Americans have joined the struggle for equal protection under the law; the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; respect and dignity for all Americans. Despite setbacks and obstacles along the way, we have made progress.”

Pelosi’s statement makes explicit mention of the lack of federal employment non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in addition to discrimination in other places. The House Democratic leader says,”We must keep up the charge for an end to discrimination in all its forms – in the workplace, in schools, in government, and in our laws.”

The text of Obama’s Pride proclamation follows:

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

June 1, 2012

LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE MONTH, 2012

- – - – - – -

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

From generation to generation, ordinary Americans have led a proud and inexorable march toward freedom, fairness, and full equality under the law — not just for some, but for all. Ours is a heritage forged by those who organized, agitated, and advocated for change; who wielded love stronger than hate and hope more powerful than insult or injury; who fought to build for themselves and their families a Nation where no one is a second-class citizen, no one is denied basic rights, and all of us are free to live and love as we see fit.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has written a proud chapter in this fundamentally American story. From brave men and women who came out and spoke out, to union and faith leaders who rallied for equality, to activists and advocates who challenged unjust laws and marched on Washington, LGBT Americans and allies have achieved what once seemed inconceivable. This month, we reflect on their enduring legacy, celebrate the movement that has made progress possible, and recommit to securing the fullest blessings of freedom for all Americans.

Since I took office, my Administration has worked to broaden opportunity, advance equality, and level the playing field for LGBT people and communities. We have fought to secure justice for all under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and we have taken action to end housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We expanded hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients and their loved ones, and under the Affordable Care Act, we ensured that insurance companies will no longer be able
to deny coverage to someone just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Because we understand that LGBT rights are human rights, we continue to engage with the international community in promoting and protecting the rights of LGBT persons around the world. Because we repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans can serve their country openly, honestly, and without fear of losing their jobs because of whom they love. And because we must treat others the way we want to be treated, I personally believe in marriage equality for same-sex couples.

More remains to be done to ensure every single American is treated equally, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Moving forward, my Administration will continue its work to advance the rights of LGBT Americans. This month, as we reflect on how far we have come and how far we have yet to go, let us recall that the progress we have made is built on the words and deeds of ordinary Americans. Let us pay tribute to those who came before us, and those who continue their work today; and let us rededicate ourselves to a task that is
unending — the pursuit of a Nation where all are equal, and all have the full and unfettered opportunity to pursue happiness and live openly and freely.

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 2012 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 first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.

BARACK OBAMA

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Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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