During a town hall event in London, President Barack Obama said that his daughters Sasha and Malia helped him in his decision to endorse marriage equality. While he was in favor of civil unions, it was not until 2012 that he actually announced his support for same-sex marriages — and he said his daughters helped him comprehend why that was important. “I have to confess my children generally had an impact on me,” he said. “People I loved who were in monogamous same-sex relationships explained to me what I should have understood earlier, which is it was not simply about legal rights but about a sense of stigma, that if you’re calling it something different it means that somehow it means less in the eyes of society.” He went on to describe the movement for marriage equality as “the fastest set of changes in terms of a social movement that I’ve seen.”
President Obama responded to several questions about LGBT issues during his two-day visit to England with the U.K. recently issuing an official travel warning for LGBT travelers going to North Carolina and Mississippi after those states passed discriminatory anti-LGBT laws.
During the same Q&A session, a Pakistani student came out publicly for the first time to President Obama as a “non-binary person” (meaning they don’t identify as either gender), and challenged him on these laws. “In the U.K. we don’t recognize non-binary people under the equality act … I wish yourself and David Cameron would take us seriously as transgender people, and perhaps you could elucidate what you can do to go beyond what has been accepted by the LGBTQ rights movement, in including people who fit outside the social norms?” she asked, adding: “I know that in North Carolina, people are having to produce birth certificates to go to the toilet.” President Obama told her he was “incredibly proud” of her, and said she “should feel encouraged social attitudes are changing … [that] doesn’t mean it’s fast enough, but you should keep pushing and it’s in part due to the courageous acts of young people like yourself.”
Nevertheless, he explained that while he opposes these discriminatory measures, he cannot overturn state laws — and the current Congress is unlikely to support overturning them.