April 23, 2016 at 11:17 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Obama credits daughters, gay friends with marriage evolution

Barack Obama, heckler, gay news, Washington Blade

President Obama spoke about LGBT rights on April 23, 2016, during a London town hall with young people. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Obama on Saturday said his daughters and gay friends helped him evolve on the issue of marriage rights for same-sex couples.

The Washington Post reported the president made the comment during a London town hall that 500 young people attended. Obama in his remarks said that he “should have realized earlier” that his support of civil unions — and not marriage rights — for same-sex couples was wrong.

“It was not simply about legal rights but a sense of stigma,” said Obama, according to the Washington Post. “If you are calling it something different then somehow it means less in the eyes of society.”

The Washington Post reported that Maria Munir, a “non-binary” person from a Pakistani-Muslim background, asked the president and British Prime Minister David Cameron to “take us seriously as transgender people.”

“I’m incredibly proud of the steps it sounds like you have already taken to speak out about your own experience and to start a social movement to change laws,” Obama told Munir, according to the Washington Post.

Munir also asked Obama about North Carolina’s House Bill 2 that prohibits trans people using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity and bans local municipalities from enacting anti-LGBT nondiscrimination measures. The Washington Post reported the president spoke about efforts in support of LGBT rights in the U.S.

“Social attitudes on this issue have changed faster than i’ve seen on any other issues.” Obama told Munir. “It doesn’t feel fast enough for you or for those who are impacted…you shouldn’t feel satisfied. You should keep pushing.”

Obama has previously spoken about LGBT-specific issues while traveling abroad.

The president spoke against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity during press conferences with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Senegalese President Macky Sall last July and in 2013 respectively.

Two Cuban LGBT rights advocates were among the members of the country’s civil society with whom Obama met last month during his trip to the Communist island. Two Russian activists met with the president in 2013 while he was in St. Petersburg for the G-20 summit.

The London town hall took place a day after Obama told reporters during a press conference with Cameron that North Carolina’s HB2 and Mississippi’s sweeping religious freedom law that critics contend allows anti-LGBT discrimination “should be overturned.” The British Foreign Office issued an advisory on April 19 that warns LGBT travelers about the North Carolina and Mississippi laws.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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