· The President’s personal view is that it’s wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so.
· It’s no secret the President has gone through some soul-searching on this issue. He’s talked to his wife about it, like so many couples do. He’s heard from folks—gay friends in long-term, loving relationships; brave young servicemen and women he got to know through the fight to end Don’t, Ask Don’t Tell; staff members; folks who sent compelling letters about their lives. It’s no doubt they’ve shaped his view on this issue.
· In the end, the values that the President cares most deeply about is how we treat other people. The President and First Lady are both practicing Christians, and obviously this position may be considered to put them at odds with the views of others, but when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is not only Christ sacrificing Himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you’d want to be treated.
· We make it absolutely clear that we are talking about civil marriages and civil laws. This isn’t a federal issue. We must be respectful of religious liberty, that churches and other faith institutions are still going to be able to make determinations about what their sacraments are, what they recognize.
· We need to recognize that people are going to have differing views on marriage and those views, even if we disagree strongly, should be respected.
The Obama Administration’s record in support of the LGBT community includes:
· Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:The President signed the bill to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell on December 22, 2010, putting in motion the end of a discriminatory policy that ran counter to our values as Americans. As of September 20, 2011, when the repeal took effect, gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans can serve openly in our Armed Forces and without fear of losing their jobs for who they are and who they love.
· Ending the Legal Defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA): If a couple is married under state law, whether they are gay or straight, they’re entitled to exactly the same legal rights as any other couple, and the federal government has no businesses invalidating those marriages. In February 2011, the President and Attorney General announced that the Department of Justice would no longer defend Section 3 of DOMA against equal protection constitutional challenges brought by same-sex couples married under state law. In July 2011, the White House announced the President’s support of the Respect for Marriage Act, introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Jerrold Nadler, which would repeal DOMA and uphold the principle that gay and lesbian couples should receive the same Federal rights and legal protections as straight couples. The President has long supported a legislative repeal of DOMA.
· Signing Historic Hate Crimes Legislation: President Obama overcame years of partisan gridlock to pass and sign the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, which extends the coverage of Federal hate crimes law to include attacks based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
· Ensuring Hospital Visitation Rights for LGBT Patients and Their Loved Ones: Following a directive from the President, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) now requires all hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds – just about every hospital in America – to allow visitation rights for LGBT patients. The President also directed HHS to ensure that medical decision-making rights of LGBT patients are respected.
· Preventing Bullying Against LGBT Students: President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, the Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services convened students, parents, and teachers, in addition to non-profit leaders, advocates, and policymakers, for the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention in March 2011. Early in the Obama Administration, six Federal agencies joined together to establish the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Steering Committee to explore ways to provide guidance on combating bullying to individuals and organizations.
· Developing and Implementing a National HIV/AIDS Strategy:President Obama fulfilled a pledge to those with HIV by developing and releasing the Nation’s first comprehensive plan for responding to the domestic HIV epidemic. In 2009, President Obama signed legislation reauthorizing the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program for four years to provide critical health services to uninsured and underinsured people living with HIV. The Administration has also prioritized funding increases for HIV prevention, care, and research in each successive President’s budget.
· Expanding Access to Health Coverage: The Affordable Care Act ensures that Americans have secure, stable, and affordable insurance. In 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against anyone due to a pre-existing condition, and because of the law, insurers can no longer turn someone away just because he or she is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. In addition, the federal website, HealthCare.gov, designed to help all consumers find the health insurance best suited to their needs, makes it easy to locate health insurers that cover domestic partners.
· Addressing Health Care Disparities: The Affordable Care Act is funding preventive efforts for communities, including millions of dollars to use evidence-based interventions to address tobacco control, obesity prevention, HIV-related health disparities, better nutrition and physical activity. In addition, the new health care law is making other investments that will help address health disparities. Funding is going toward building a more diverse and culturally competent health care workforce, as well as investing in community health centers to serve up to 20 million more patients. And through increased research and data collection on health disparities, policymakers will have the knowledge and tools they need to continue to address the health needs and concerns of the LGBT community.
· Taking Steps to Ensure LGBT Equality in Housing and Crime Prevention: The Administration announced the first ever national study of discrimination in housing against LGBT persons and, in January 2012, issued a final rule to ensure that the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s core housing programs are open to all persons regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Justice Department also issued guidance stating that Federal prosecutors should enforce criminal provisions in the Violence Against Women Act in cases involving same-sex relationships.
Ben Smith is the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed and is based in New York.
Contact Ben Smith at email@example.com.
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