Gay Primary Source

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

White House LGBT Pride Month Reception

"Now this struggle, I don't need to tell you, is incredibly difficult, although I think it's important to consider the extraordinary progress that we have made. There are unjust laws to overturn and unfair practices to stop. And though we've made progress, there are still fellow citizens, perhaps neighbors or even family members and loved ones, who still hold fast to worn arguments and old attitudes; who fail to see your families like their families; and who would deny you the rights that most Americans take for granted. And I know this is painful and I know it can be heartbreaking.

And yet all of you continue, leading by the force of the arguments you make but also by the power of the example that you set in your own lives - as parents and friends, as PTA members and leaders in the community. And that's important, and I'm glad that so many LGBT families could join us today. For we know that progress depends not only on changing laws but also changing hearts. And that real, transformative change never begins in Washington.

Indeed, that's the story of the movement for fairness and equality - not just for those who are gay, but for all those in our history who've been denied the rights and responsibilities of citizenship; who've been told that the full blessings and opportunities of this country were closed to them. It's the story of progress sought by those who started off with little influence or power; by men and women who brought about change through quiet, personal acts of compassion and courage and sometimes defiance wherever and whenever they could.

That's the story of a civil rights pioneer who's here today, Frank Kameny, who was fired - Frank was fired from his job as an astronomer for the federal government simply because he was gay. And in 1965, he led a protest outside the White House, which was at the time both an act of conscience but also an act of extraordinary courage. And so we are proud of you, Frank, and we are grateful to you for your leadership.

It's the story of the Stonewall protests, which took place 40 years ago this week, when a group of citizens - with few options, and fewer supporters - decided they'd had enough and refused to accept a policy of wanton discrimination. And two men who were at those protests are here today. Imagine the journey that they've travelled.

It's the story of an epidemic that decimated a community - and the gay men and women who came to support one another and save one another; and who continue to fight this scourge; and who demonstrated before the world that different kinds of families can show the same compassion and support in a time of need - that we all share the capacity to love.

So this story, this struggle, continues today - for even as we face extraordinary challenges as a nation, we cannot - and will not - put aside issues of basic equality. We seek an America in which no one feels the pain of discrimination based on who you are or who you love.

And I know that many in this room don't believe that progress has come fast enough, and I understand that. It's not for me to tell you to be patient, any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African Americans who were petitioning for equal rights a half century ago.

But I say this: We have made progress and we will make more. And I want you to know that I expect and hope to be judged not by words, not by promises I've made, but by the promises that my administration keeps. We've been in office six months now. I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration.

Now, while there is much more work to do, we can point to important changes we've already put in place since coming into office. I've signed a memorandum requiring all agencies to extend as many federal benefits as possible to LGBT families as current law allows. And these are benefits that will make a real difference for federal employees and Foreign Service Officers, who are so often treated as if their families don't exist. I've called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act to help end discrimination - to help end discrimination against same-sex couples in this country. Now, I want to add we have a duty to uphold existing law, but I believe we must do so in a way that does not exacerbate old divides. And fulfilling this duty in upholding the law in no way lessens my commitment to reversing this law. I've made that clear.

I'm also urging Congress to pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act, which will guarantee the full range of benefits, including health care, to LGBT couples and their children. My administration is also working hard to pass an employee non-discrimination bill and hate crimes bill, and we're making progress on both fronts. Judy and Dennis Shepard, as well as their son Logan, are here today. I met with Judy in the Oval Office in May - and I assured her and I assured all of you that we are going to pass an inclusive hate crimes bill into law, a bill named for their son Matthew.

In addition, my administration is committed to rescinding the discriminatory ban on entry to the United States based on HIV status. The Office of Management and Budget just concluded a review of a proposal to repeal this entry ban, which is a first and very big step towards ending this policy. And we all know that HIV/AIDS continues to be a public health threat in many communities, including right here in the District of Columbia. And that's why this past Saturday, on National HIV Testing Day, I was proud once again to encourage all Americans to know their status and get tested the way Michelle and I know our status and got tested.

And finally, I want to say a word about "don't ask, don't tell." As I said before - I'll say it again - I believe "don't ask, don't tell" doesn't contribute to our national security. In fact, I believe preventing patriotic Americans from serving their country weakens our national security. Now, my administration is already working with the Pentagon and members of the House and the Senate on how we'll go about ending this policy, which will require an act of Congress.

Someday, I'm confident, we'll look back at this transition and ask why it generated such angst, but as Commander-in-Chief, in a time of war, I do have a responsibility to see that this change is administered in a practical way and a way that takes over the long term. That's why I've asked the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a plan for how to thoroughly implement a repeal.

I know that every day that passes without a resolution is a deep disappointment to those men and women who continue to be discharged under this policy - patriots who often possess critical language skills and years of training and who've served this country well. But what I hope is that these cases underscore the urgency of reversing this policy not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it is essential for our national security.

Now, even as we take these steps, we must recognize that real progress depends not only on the laws we change but, as I said before, on the hearts we open. For if we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that there are good and decent people in this country who don't yet fully embrace their gay brothers and sisters - not yet. That's why I've spoken about these issues not just in front of you, but in front of unlikely audiences - in front of African American church members, in front of other audiences that have traditionally resisted these changes. And that's what I'll continue to do so. That's how we'll shift attitudes. That's how we'll honor the legacy of leaders like Frank and many others who have refused to accept anything less than full and equal citizenship.

Now, 40 years ago, in the heart of New York City at a place called the Stonewall Inn, a group of citizens, including a few who are here today, as I said, defied an unjust policy and awakened a nascent movement. It was the middle of the night. The police stormed the bar, which was known for being one of the few spots where it was safe to be gay in New York. Now, raids like this were entirely ordinary. Because it was considered obscene and illegal to be gay, no establishments for gays and lesbians could get licenses to operate. The nature of these businesses, combined with the vulnerability of the gay community itself, meant places like Stonewall, and the patrons inside, were often the victims of corruption and blackmail.

Now, ordinarily, the raid would come and the customers would disperse. But on this night, something was different. There are many accounts of what happened, and much has been lost to history, but what we do know is this: People didn't leave. They stood their ground. And over the course of several nights they declared that they had seen enough injustice in their time. This was an outpouring against not just what they experienced that night, but what they had experienced their whole lives. And as with so many movements, it was also something more: It was at this defining moment that these folks who had been marginalized rose up to challenge not just how the world saw them, but also how they saw themselves.

As we've seen so many times in history, once that spirit takes hold there is little that can stand in its way. And the riots at Stonewall gave way to protests, and protests gave way to a movement, and the movement gave way to a transformation that continues to this day. It continues when a partner fights for her right to sit at the hospital bedside of a woman she loves. It continues when a teenager is called a name for being different and says, "So what if I am?" It continues in your work and in your activism, in your fight to freely live your lives to the fullest.

In one year after the protests, a few hundred gays and lesbians and their supporters gathered at the Stonewall Inn to lead a historic march for equality. But when they reached Central Park, the few hundred that began the march had swelled to 5,000. Something had changed, and it would never change back.

The truth is when these folks protested at Stonewall 40 years ago no one could have imagined that you - or, for that matter, I - would be standing here today. So we are all witnesses to monumental changes in this country. That should give us hope, but we cannot rest. We must continue to do our part to make progress - step by step, law by law, mind by changing mind. And I want you to know that in this task I will not only be your friend, I will continue to be an ally and a champion and a President who fights with you and for you."

Remarks by President Barack Obama at LGBT Pride Month Reception, East Room of the White House, June 29, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Los Angeles Mayor Comments on Prop 8 Ruling

"I traveled to Sacramento today to work with our state legislators to help address a budget crisis caused by a broken system in California - one that puts the process of balancing our books in the hands of a few swing votes in the legislature and requires us to cross a nearly insurmountable threshold just to keep our state’s finances afloat. At the same time, the state Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, stating that the future of thousands of Californians - the extent of our state's commitment to equal opportunity for all citizens to solidify bonds of love and build healthy, caring families - can be determined by the will of a bare majority of voters. These two situations reflect a chilling truth we must face as a community and as a state: That when a bare majority can strip away a fundamental right - yet it takes a two-thirds vote to pass a budget - then our system is fundamentally broken. While there is much to criticize in today’s court decision and there will be plenty of debates about our path forward, one thing is clear: This debate will rest in the hands of the people. And that might just be the best place for it because the fight for equality is not about morality or religion, our schools or our places of work. It's about real people and real human beings. It's about men and women trying to lead successful lives with those they love. It's about parents hoping to raise a family and ready to accept the responsibilities that come along with a lifelong commitment to your spouse and your children. In the coming years - as we make our case to voters and as the majority of our neighbors come to understand the real, painful, human impact of Prop 8 across California - I am confident that this state will have a change of heart, will reiterate its broader commitment to justice for every citizen, and will overturn this unjust ban at the ballot box." Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, in response to the State Supreme Court Ruling on Proposition 8, June 17, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

President Extends Equal Benefits


SUBJECT: Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination
Millions of hard-working, dedicated, and patriotic public servants are employed by the Federal Government as part of the civilian workforce, and many of these devoted Americans have same-sex domestic partners. Leading companies in the private sector are free to provide to same-sex domestic partners the same benefits they provide to married people of the opposite sex. Executive departments and agencies, however, may only provide benefits on that basis if they have legal authorization to do so. My Administration is not authorized by Federal law to extend a number of available Federal benefits to the same-sex partners of Federal employees. Within existing law, however, my Administration, in consultation with the Secretary of State, who oversees our Foreign Service employees, and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, who oversees human resource management for our civil service employees, has identified areas in which statutory authority exists to achieve greater equality for the Federal workforce through extension to same-sex domestic partners of benefits currently available to married people of the opposite sex. Extending available benefits will help the Federal Government compete with the private sector to recruit and retain the best and the brightest employees.

I hereby request the following:

Section 1. Extension of Identified Benefits. The Secretary of State and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management shall, in consultation with the Department of Justice, extend the benefits they have respectively identified to qualified same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees where doing so can be achieved and is consistent with Federal law.

Sec. 2. Review of Governmentwide Benefits. The heads of all other executive departments and agencies, in consultation with the Office of Personnel Management, shall conduct a review of the benefits provided by their respective departments and agencies to determine what authority they have to extend such benefits to same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees. The results of this review shall be reported within 90 days to the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, who, in consultation with the Department of Justice, shall recommend to me any additional measures that can be taken, consistent with existing law, to provide benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal Government employees.

Sec. 3. Promoting Compliance with Existing Law Requiring Federal Workplaces to be Free of Discrimination Based on Non-Merit Factors. The Office of Personnel Management shall issue guidance within 90 days to all executive departments and agencies regarding compliance with, and implementation of, the civil service laws, rules, and regulations, including 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(10), which make it unlawful to discriminate against Federal employees or applicants for Federal employment on the basis of factors not related to job performance.

President Barack Obama, June 17, 2009

Friday, June 5, 2009

Governor of New Hampshire Signs Same-Sex Marriage Bill

"New Hampshire’s great tradition has always been to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections. That tradition continues today. Two years ago in this room, I signed civil unions into law. That law gave same-sex couples in New Hampshire the rights and protections of marriage. And while civil unions was recognized as a step forward, many same-sex couples made compelling arguments that a separate system is not an equal system. They argued that what might appear to be a minor difference in wording to some, lessened the dignity and legitimacy of their families. At the same time, the word "marriage" has significant and religious connotations to many of our citizens. They had concerns that this legislation would interfere with the ability of religious groups to freely practice their faiths. Today, we are standing up for the liberties of same-sex couples by making clear that they will receive the same rights, responsibilities - and respect - under New Hampshire law... With the signing of this legislation today, New Hampshire will have taken every action possible to ensure that all families have equal rights to the extent that is possible under state law. Unfortunately, the federal government does not extend the same rights and protections that New Hampshire provides same-sex families, and that should change. Here in New Hampshire, this debate has been filled with passion and emotion on both sides. Two years ago, after an equally passionate debate, the people of New Hampshire embraced civil unions as a natural part of New Hampshire’s long tradition of opposing discrimination. It is my hope, and my belief, that New Hampshire will again come together to embrace tolerance and respect, and to stand against discrimination. That has how we in New Hampshire have always lived our lives and that is how we will continue as we move forward. Most families in New Hampshire will awaken tomorrow, go to work and to school, and feel no impact from what we have accomplished today. But for some, they will awaken tomorrow knowing we have said to them that they are equal, that they have the same rights to live and to love as everyone else. Today is a day to celebrate in New Hampshire. Today should not be considered a victory for some and a loss for others. Today is a victory for all the people of New Hampshire, who I believe, in our own independent way, want tolerance for all. That is truly the New Hampshire way."
New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, Weds., June 3, 2009

Monday, June 1, 2009

Secretary of State Recognizes Gay & Lesbian Pride Month

"Forty years ago this month, the gay rights movement began with the Stonewall riots in New York City, as gays and lesbians demanded an end to the persecution they had long endured. Now, after decades of hard work, the fight has grown into a global movement to achieve a world in which all people live free from violence and fear, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In honor of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month and on behalf of the State Department, I extend our appreciation to the global LGBT community for its courage and determination during the past 40 years, and I offer our support for the significant work that still lies ahead. At the State Department and throughout the Administration, we are grateful for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees in Washington and around the world. They and their families make many sacrifices to serve our nation. Their contributions are vital to our efforts to establish stability, prosperity and peace worldwide. Human rights are at the heart of those efforts. Gays and lesbians in many parts of the world live under constant threat of arrest, violence, even torture. The persecution of gays and lesbians is a violation of human rights and an affront to human decency, and it must end. As Secretary of State, I will advance a comprehensive human rights agenda that includes the elimination of violence and discrimination against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Though the road to full equality for LGBT Americans is long, the example set by those fighting for equal rights in the United States gives hope to men and women around the world who yearn for a better future for themselves and their loved ones. This June, let us recommit ourselves to achieving a world in which all people can live in safety and freedom, no matter who they are or whom they love." Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, June 1, 2009, in recognition of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month 2009.

President Proclaims June as LGBT Pride Month

"Forty years ago, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that had become all too common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Out of this resistance, the LGBT rights movement in America was born. During LGBT Pride Month, we commemorate the events of June 1969 and commit to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT Americans. LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society. There are many well-respected LGBT leaders in all professional fields, including the arts and business communities. LGBT Americans also mobilized the Nation to respond to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic and have played a vital role in broadening this country's response to the HIV pandemic. Due in no small part to the determination and dedication of the LGBT rights movement, more LGBT Americans are living their lives openly today than ever before. I am proud to be the first President to appoint openly LGBT candidates to Senate-confirmed positions in the first 100 days of an Administration. These individuals embody the best qualities we seek in public servants, and across my Administration -- in both the White House and the Federal agencies -- openly LGBT employees are doing their jobs with distinction and professionalism. The LGBT rights movement has achieved great progress, but there is more work to be done. LGBT youth should feel safe to learn without the fear of harassment, and LGBT families and seniors should be allowed to live their lives with dignity and respect. My Administration has partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives. At the international level, I have joined efforts at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. Here at home, I continue to support measures to bring the full spectrum of equal rights to LGBT Americans. These measures include enhancing hate crimes laws, supporting civil unions and Federal rights for LGBT couples, outlawing discrimination in the workplace, ensuring adoption rights, and ending the existing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security. We must also commit ourselves to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic by both reducing the number of HIV infections and providing care and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS across the United States. These issues affect not only the LGBT community, but also our entire Nation. As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit. During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists." President Barack Obama, Monday June 1, 2009

Ex-VP Supports Gay Marriage

"Well, I think freedom means freedom for everyone. And, as many of you know, one of my daughters is gay, and something that we’ve lived with for a long time, in our family. I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish - any kind of arrangement they wish. The question of whether or not there oughta be a federal statute that governs this - I don't support. I do believe that historically the way marriage has been regulated is at the state level. This has always been a state issue, and I think that’s the way it oughta be handled today, that is, on a state-by-state basis, different states’ll make different decisions. But I don't have any problem with that. I think people oughta get a shot at that, and they do at present." Former Vice President Dick Cheney, Gerald Ford Journalism Awards, National Press Club, June 1, 2009