January 12, 2017 at 5:40 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. activists bid farewell to Obama with praise, affection
White House, rainbow, gay news, Washington Blade, Obama legacy

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C.-area LGBT residents and activists told the Washington Blade they believe President Barack Obama had an important and positive impact on the LGBT community during his eight years in the White House.

A dozen LGBT people from the D.C. area contacted by the Blade, including one gay Republican, all agreed that Obama was the most LGBT supportive president ever. They said his outspoken support for LGBT rights would have a lasting positive impact on the country as well as on LGBT people themselves.

“I think President Obama restored dignity and humanity to LGBT people across the world who have been hurt and violated by governments and by society in general,” said Ruby Corado, executive director of the D.C. LGBT community services center Casa Ruby.

“So that is my No. 1 thing,” Corado said. “He made us feel human.”

Martin Diego Garcia, former president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest local LGBT political group, said Obama has led by example and raised the profile of those in the community who were most vulnerable, including LGBT people.

“President Obama gave me and a number of LGBTQ Americans hope, a call to action, a place at the table, a sense of belonging, and a belief that our country still has the potential to be a more perfect union,” Garcia said.

Following are the responses among local LGBT people contacted by the Blade to this question:

“What are your thoughts on President Obama’s impact on the LGBT community and what message would you have for him as he leaves office on Jan. 20?”

Alex Morash, Stein Club Vice President, D.C. resident

What I would say to him when he leaves office is thank you. He’s just done so much for us when it comes to marriage equality and LGBT rights across the spectrum from repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ to fighting for LGBT workers’ rights and making sure we’re not discriminated against in the workplace. He’s done more than really any president in the modern era.

Alex Morash (Photo courtesy Facebook)

Alex Morash (Photo courtesy Facebook)

Jesse Garcia, Stein Club Secretary, D.C. resident

It was a milestone for the LGBT community to have a person that not only was proud to stand with us but actually worked for passing legislation to protect us, to recognize us, and to make us part of the American fabric. I got to see it from the inside being a political appointee [special assistant at the Department of Health and Human Services]. I feel like I’m very honored to have been part of this special history that we’re going to look back on when LGBT people were brought to the forefront.

Jesse Garcia (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Jesse Garcia (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Justin George, LGBT activist, D.C. resident

I believe the impact he’s had on the LGBT community is he has shown us that a static worldview of the LGBT experience is not so simple. In 2008, he had no qualms about saying he objected to the idea of gay marriage. Yet in four short years he evolved from that point and I think that speaks volumes about him as an individual. But it also speaks to the human capability to change and develop…The hopeful thing is that in four short years you’ve seen the most powerful man on the planet change. What could this mean for other places? So it gives me hope and positive feelings and I’m thankful for that.

Jon Thompson, LGBT activist, D.C. resident

I think the power of the office and knowing that we had an advocate in that office was really impactful for me. Within his presidency were the years that I came out and experienced my own self-identity. And knowing that the president in the highest office in the land has your back is a good feeling. So it’s going to be hard when he’s gone.

Nick Esposito, LGBT activist, Hyattsville, Md. resident

I would love to say thank you. I think he started off a little bit slow but I think toward the middle of his presidential term, and especially toward the end, he went right for trans rights and he was really fighting for them. So I’m really happy to see all the progress he wants to make for our community. So I want to thank him for really caring about our livelihoods and doing everything he possibly can to help us.

Peter Rosenstein, Democratic Party and LGBT advocate, D.C. resident

President Obama was a champion for the LGBT community. There were times we had to push him for his support, but in the end he stood up for us, and with us. I would thank the president for all he did for the nation, including the LGBT community. Now as a Democrat, I ask him to continue to stand with Democrats and help to build the party in every state and territory to take back governorships and legislatures before the 2020 census.

Brent Huggins, LGBT activist, D.C. resident

I would say thank you for supporting us and fighting and advocating for the rights that we have. As the president, he provided or fought for more rights for the LGBT community than any other president in the history of the country. So I really thank him for doing that.

Barbara Helmick, D.C. statehood and LGBT advocate, D.C. resident

Our organizing created the conditions for President Obama to step up and publicly support marriage equality. He brought his great communications skills in doing so and deserves to go down in history for doing so…My message to Obama going forward – we can win when we have each other’s backs. So use your organizing skills, work in coalition with us, and let’s make history together.

Barbara Helmick (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Barbara Helmick (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

John Klenert, D.C. voting rights and LGBT advocate, D.C. resident

His short-term impact on and for the LGBT community: substantial. His willingness to listen and learn about us certainly sent lessons to everyday American citizens. My message: Thank you for the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ your appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, the number of open LGBT people working inside and outside the White House. My one message of disappointment: your failure to support D.C. voting rights and/or statehood.

John Klenert (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

John Klenert (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Jeri Hughes, trans activist, D.C. resident

What I would say is we had eight years of progress, steady progress. It’s been wonderful. We went from here to there. Eight years ago we didn’t have marriage equality. He was standing up for transgender rights. Who in the White House was doing that before him? No one ever. I would tell him thank you for your service, your devotion to our country, for human rights. The fight’s not over and I expect to see him out there. I expect to see him fighting for human rights and goodness in general in the future. I love the man. I would die for him.

Jeri Hughes (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Jeri Hughes (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Chris Allen, president D.C. Log Cabin Republicans, D.C. resident

President Obama’s evolution on gay marriage helped pave the way for more and more Americans to open their minds and become more understanding and accepting of the LGBT community. This advocacy also set the bar and example for many other world leaders. While I many have disagreed with many of Obama’s policies, I appreciate the support he gave the LGBT community. I hope that in his post-presidency he continues to support our community, and if he ever needs any advice, I’m just a few blocks away from his new home!

Chris Allen (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Chris Allen (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ruby Corado, executive director Casa Ruby, D.C. resident

I think all of us will get to the point in our lives where we will be judged by our actions here on earth. And President Obama will certainly be one of those people who will be able to rest in peace for doing everything right, even when people criticized him. So he will definitely be one of those who will not have to worry. He did everything right despite what some people thought of him. He protected our people.

Ruby Corado (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ruby Corado (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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