What President Obama Has Done for LGBT Rights and Equality

There have been many naysayers from inside the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community regarding what President Obama has done for LGBT rights and equality. Many who say he simply doesn’t care about LGBT rights, and/or has not fulfilled the promises he made during his campaign. There are many more who say that he has not fulfilled his promises fast enough. This is a list of the rights and equalities granted to the LGBT community under the Obama administration. I hope that this will put to rest any thoughts that our President is ignoring the importance of equality. He is indeed a proponent of civil rights. In fact, he has done more for LGBT rights than any other US President in history.

1. Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (The first federal civil rights law to protect gays and lesbians)

2. He instructed all federal agencies to extend benefits where possible to civilian federal employees with same-sex partners.

3. He issued two Presidential Memoranda (in June 2009 and June 2010) directing federal agencies to extend whatever benefits they could, under existing authority, to the same-sex partners of federal employees. These include sick and funeral leave, long-term care insurance, travel and relocation assistance, child care subsidies, and certain retirement benefits. The State Department extended numerous benefits to the partners of Foreign Service officers, including diplomatic passports, access to overseas medical and training facilities, inclusion in housing allocations, and access to emergency evacuation.

4. He ended the ban on HIV-positive immigrants and foreign visitors.

5. The federal Prison Rape Elimination Commission proposed national standards to reduce sexual abuse in correctional facilities, including standards regarding LGBT and intersex inmates. In early 2011, the Justice Department proposed regulations to implement those standards.

6. The State Department reversed a Bush Administration policy that refused to use a same-sex marriage license as evidence of a name change for passports.

7. Health and Human Services (HHS) Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability reviewed the lifetime ban on blood donation by gay and bisexual men, concluded that it is a “sub-optimal” policy that screens out low risk donors and called on HHS to conduct research to support a move to a policy based on risk behavior, regardless of sexual orientation.

8. The Department of Justice issued an opinion clarifying that the criminal provisions of the Violence Against Women Act related to stalking and abuse apply equally to same-sex partners.

9. The Department of State revised the standards for changing a gender marker on a passport, making the process less burdensome for transgender people.

10. The Department of Labor issued guidance clarifying that an employee can take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for a same-sex partner’s child, even where the partner does not have a legal or biological relationship to that child.

11. HHS revised its funding guidance around abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education programs, requiring that recipient programs are inclusive of and non-stigmatizing toward LGBT youth, and mandating that they include only medically-accurate information.

12. HHS awarded a $900,000 grant for the creation of a national resource center on LGBT aging issues to Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders (SAGE). HHS also awarded a $13.3 million grant to the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center to create a model program supporting LGBT and questioning youth in the foster care system.

13. At the request of HHS, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a lengthy report in March 2011 detailing the range of areas in which more research is needed on LGBT health needs.

14. In March 2011, HHS sent a number of recommendations to the White House for policy and regulatory changes that HHS could undertake to improve the health of LGBT people, including: collection of LGBT health data, guidance for states on including LGBT families in federal welfare programs, and guidance for states on protecting the financial resources of a same-sex partner when his or her partner enters long-term care under Medicaid.

15. He announced new regulations through The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)  that recognize LGBT families for federal housing programs and prohibit discrimination in getting federally insured mortgage loans.

16. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) added gender identity to the equal employment opportunity policy governing all federal jobs.

17. He appointed more than 100 openly gay people in his administration, some of which include the government’s top personnel official and the head of the Council for Environmental Quality.

18. He issued Presidential Memorandum in April 2010 directing HHS to issue regulations requiring all hospitals receiving Medicaid and Medicare to prohibit discrimination in visitation against LGBT people. HHS issued regulations that went into effect in 2011.

19. He awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to gay icons Billie Jean King and Harvey Milk.

20. He hosted a White House summit on bullying and recorded a video message telling young LGBT individuals that “It Gets Better.”

21. He ordered the data to be released of legally married gay couples from the 2010 census, granting legitimacy of same-sex relationships.

22. HHS rescinded provisions of a Bush-era rule which allowed health care providers to refuse to provide any health care service or information for a religious or moral reason.

23. He championed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, a 17-year-old ban barring LGBT individuals the right to serve openly in the military.

24. He wants Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which will prohibit employers from considering sexual orientation in hiring and firing decisions. This legislation however, is currently stalled in the Senate.

25. He also wants to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which bars legally sanctioned same-sex couples from reaping Social Security survivor payments, tax breaks and other benefits reserved for straight married couples. This legislation is also being held up in a highly conservative House of Representatives, and will probably not see repeal for at least two years.


President Obama often lends his voice to the equality of all individuals, but in the scope of things he has overwhelmingly shown support for the LGBT community. May I please ask the naysayers to look at what has been accomplished in only two years, rather than act as though he hasn’t done enough. He still has work to do, and he knows that.


Many thanks to the Human Rights Campaign and Andrea Stone from AOL for the compilation of this data.