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Obama includes support for marriage equality in Pride proclamation

Employment protections absent from statement

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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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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court declines to hear lawsuit against Montgomery County schools gender guidelines

4th Circuit last August dismissed parents’ case

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U.S. Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a lawsuit against Montgomery County Public Schools guidelines that allow schools to create plans in support of transgender or gender nonconfirming students without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

Three parents of students in the school district — none of whom have trans or gender nonconfirming children — filed the lawsuit. 

A judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last August dismissed the case. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

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National

Bill to support LGBTQ seniors in rural areas reintroduced

Advocates praise Elder Pride Act

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(Washington Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) reintroduced legislation to increase access to needed services and resources for LGBTQ seniors who live in rural areas this week.

The Elder Pride Act would bolster the capacity and ability of Area Agencies on Aging located in rural communities to better serve and support LGBTQ seniors who often require affirming care, services, and supports that are often underfunded and scarce in many parts of the country.

Recent surveys show that between 2.9 million and 3.8 million LGBTQ people live in rural American communities.

“LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV live in every part of this nation, including rural areas. We all deserve to be able to age in our communities with the services and supports we need to remain independent,” SAGE CEO Michael Adams said in the press release announcing the reintroduction of the legislation. “We commend Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Sharice Davids (D-KS) on reintroducing the Elder Pride Act. And we honor the contributions of our many LGBTQ+ trailblazers whose tireless advocacy allowed us to reintroduce this critical bill. We look forward to working alongside Reps. Bonamici, Pocan, and Davids, and our LGBTQ+ pioneers nationwide to pass this legislation.”

“LGBTQI+ seniors should be able to access services and care that meets their unique needs, regardless of where they live,” said Bonamici, chair of the Equality Caucus’s LGBTQ+ Aging Issues Task Force.”Those who live in rural areas frequently face increased barriers, which Congress can break down. The Elder Pride Act will increase resources for programs and services that will improve the lives of LGBTQI+ elders.”

“The Elder Pride Act will improve the overall health and social and economic well-being of LGBTQI+ older adults and seniors living with HIV in rural areas by better equipping senior service providers with resources to address the unique needs of these communities. I’m pleased to introduce this important legislation with my colleagues and co-leaders on the Equality Caucus, Reps. Pocan and Davids,” Bonamici added.

“Rural LGBTQI+ seniors have been lacking access to necessary services and care for too long,” said Pocan, co-chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “The Elder Pride Act creates opportunities for LGBTQ+ seniors in rural communities, benefiting everyone in the region. I look forward to advancing this important legislation.”

“Many of our LGBTQ+ elders fought tirelessly for equality in a world that refused to accept their identity,” said Davids. “While they overcame tremendous odds to give future generations the rights they deserve, our elders, particularly those in rural communities, continue to face discrimination when accessing long-term care and healthcare. I am proud to support the Elder Pride Act because who you are and who you love should never increase your risk for isolation, poverty, and poor health outcomes as you age.”

The Elder Pride Act complements the Older American Act, which was updated under Bonamici’s leadership, by establishing a rural grant program designed to fund care and services for LGBTQ seniors. The grant would also support programs that:

• Provide services such as cultural competency training for service providers;

• Develop modes of connection between LGBTQI+ older adults and local service providers and community organizations;

• Expand the use of nondiscrimination policies and community spaces for older adults who are members of the LGBTQI+ community or another protected class; and,

• Disseminate resources on sexual health and aging for senior service providers.

A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here, and the full text can be found here.

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State Department

State Department travel advisory warns of potential anti-LGBTQ violence

FBI issued similar warning this week

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(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The State Department on Friday issued a worldwide travel advisory that warns of potential violence against LGBTQ people and LGBTQ-specific events.

“Due to the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,” reads the advisory. “The Department of State is aware of the increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events and advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.”  

The advisory further urges U.S. citizens to:

  • Stay alert in locations frequented by tourists, including Pride celebrations and venues frequented by LGBTQI+ persons.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive information and alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency overseas.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Homeland Security Investigations earlier this week issued a similar advisory.

The advisory notes June 12 will mark eight years since the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

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