Obama Touts LGBT Successes, Calls for More Work at New York Gala

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
June 18 2014 3:50 PM

Obama Confirms Executive Order Barring LGBT Federal Job Discrimination

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President Obama speaks at the Democratic National Committee's annual LGBT gala in New York.

Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

At a New York City Democratic National Committee LGBT fundraising gala on Tuesday evening, President Barack Obama confirmed a move his staff had leaked earlier in the week—an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is on the way. Obama began the almost 20-minute speech by listing the accomplishments his administration has overseen for the LGBT community in the last year alone:

So Pride Month is a time for celebration, and this year we’ve got a lot to celebrate.  If you think about everything that’s happened in the last 12 months, it is remarkable. In nine more states you’re now free to marry the person you love—that includes my two home states of Hawaii and Illinois. The NFL drafted its first openly gay player. The U.S. Postal Service made history by putting an openly gay person on a stamp—the late, great Harvey Milk smiling from ear to ear. 

The president went on to observe that though societal attitudes toward queer people are changing, in large part due to generational shifts in attitude, increasing visibility is also making a difference across the board. “[What’s been remarkable is the way Americans of all age groups are increasingly embracing marriage equality,” he said, adding that in most cases, “it was love that did it—love for the child or the grandchild, or the friend or the co-worker who sat down one day and held their hands and took a deep breath and said, I’m gay.”

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After joking with the audience that sometimes LGBT activists have been “a little impatient” with him on certain issues, Obama cautioned that “progress doesn’t just have to be fought for, it has to be defended.” He presented his pending executive order as another line in that defense:

In the United States of America, who you are and who you love shouldn’t be a fireable offense.  It would be better, by the way, if Congress passed a more comprehensive law that didn’t just cover federal contractors. And we need to keep working on that, so don’t take the pressure off Congress. 

The president concluded on a hopeful note, calling on everyone to “make sure all our children grow up in an America where differences are respected and even celebrated, and where love is love.” 

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.

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