— Out Magazine (@outmagazine) November 10, 2015
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama announced that he is supporting the Equality Act, which was introduced by House and Senate Democrats in July and Vox calls “the most comprehensive LGBTQ bill ever”. The bill would expand the 1964 Civil Rights Act and protect people from discrimination based on their sexual or gender identity in almost all settings covered by federal law. While right now federal and most state laws do not specifically protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, the Republican-dominated congress is extremely unlikely to pass the bill. Nevertheless, the Washington Post points out that support for this bill from the first African-American president is significant, as other civil rights groups (including the NAACP) have been slow in endorsing the legislation. “The White House sent a strong message that it’s time to put the politics of discrimination behind us once and for all,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin wrote in a statement after Tuesday’s announcement, adding: “The unfortunate reality is that, while LGBT Americans can legally get married, millions remain at risk of being fired or denied services for who they are or who they love because the majority of states still lack explicit, comprehensive non-discrimination protections.”
In a further show of his support for the LGBT community, on Tuesday President Obama also became the first sitting US President to be featured on the cover of an LGBT magazine. Out Magazine named him “ally of the year” for being on the right side of history in supporting the issue of same-sex marriage. In an interview with the magazine, Obama talked about how his mother’s teachings that “every person was of equal worth” influenced his thinking on LGBT issues, as did Lawrence Goldyn, an openly gay professor at Occidental who “went out of his way to advise lesbian, gay, and transgender students.”
Obama also discussed the need to promote LGBT rights around the world, and acknowledged there was still a lot of work to be done in the US, such as “[ending] harmful practices like conversion therapy.” Nevertheless, he said that, as a father, he was hopeful America would eventually get there: “To Malia and Sasha and their friends, discrimination in any form against anyone doesn’t make sense,” he said. “It doesn’t dawn on them that friends who are gay or friends’ parents who are same-sex couples should be treated differently than anyone else. That’s powerful.”
Read the President’s interview with Out Magazine.