Achieving LGBT Equality Through Litigation, Legislation, Policy, and Public Education

Views & Analysis

May 10, 2012

Where Were You When Obama Made History?

FromKate Family PicWhere were you when you first heard?

I was in front of Lincoln Center (I’m in New York City this week for a meeting with other LGBT civil rights attorneys from across the country) when NCLR Deputy Director Arcelia Hurtado screamed, “He did it!”

I turned around and said, “What?” To which she replied, “Obama came out in support of marriage!” We both screamed and hugged, teary eyed. The New Yorkers walking past us didn’t care. But we knew that this was a historic and indelible moment.

Yesterday’s incredible news is the latest addition to the president’s already impressive record of supporting the LGBT community and our families. Since taking office, President Obama has signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He ended the legal defense of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). He has ensured equal hospital visitation rights of LGBT patients and their loved ones. He has made important efforts to target and address violence in the LGBT community. He has helped make the transgender community more secure by simplifying the process of changing gender markers on passports. He has taken huge steps to extend fair housing rights and equal access to housing programs to LGBT people and their families. He has worked to prevent school bullying and endorsed the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would provide necessary federal protections against bullying, violence, and harassment targeting LGBT youth. He has worked to eliminate barriers in healthcare by extending crucial nondiscrimination protections to the LGBT community.

And then—yesterday, in a short and simple interview, when asked about his feelings on marriage equality, our president told the truth and did the right thing. Today, I could not be more proud.

I am still taking it in. No two ways about it—this changes everything. It changes the game. It changes our culture. It has changed our history—no matter what happens next, for the first time ever, a sitting president of the United States said publicly that same-sex couples deserve the same respect and dignity afforded to other couples. He publicly acknowledged that our relationships and lives are equal. And this simple act will have a ripple effect for years to come.

Nothing before this has even come close. Yes, former presidents have done the right thing and told the truth about their support of marriage equality, but only after they had long left office.

President Obama, you made history when you were elected and took office, and you continue to make history today, even as you campaign for the chance to do so for another four years. With the deepest gratitude on behalf of the love of my life, Sandy, and our kids—I thank you.

To a new day,

Kate Kendell, Esq., NCLR Executive Director

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