Archive for June, 2013

President Obama Comments on Yesterday’s DOMA Supreme Court Ruling

President Obama’s remarks at a joint press conference in Senegal, where after speaking about yesterday’s Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), he addressed the treatment of LGBT people in Africa.

You can read the transcripts from the full press conference here.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, I think the Supreme Court ruling yesterday was not simply a victory for the LGBT community, it’s a victory for American democracy.  I believe at the root of who we are as a people, who we are as Americans is the basic precept that we are all equal under the law.  We believe in basic fairness.  And what I think yesterday’s ruling signifies is one more step towards ensuring that those basic principles apply to everybody.

When I spoke to Ms. Windsor — 83 years old — and I thought about the 40 years of her relationship and her partner, who is now passed, for her to live to see this day where that relationship was the vehicle whereby more people received their rights and are recognized as a testament to the love and commitment that they have made to each other, that was special.  And that’s just a microcosm of what it meant for families and their children all across America.  So it was a proud day I think for America.

Now, as you point out, there are a whole lot of implications that flow from it, because the Supreme Court did not make a blanket ruling that applies nationally, but rather lifted up the ability of states to recognize the dignity and respect of same-sex marriage, and that the federal government couldn’t negate the decision by those states.  We now have to comb through every federal statute.  And although we hadn’t pre-judged what the ruling had been, I had asked my White House Counsel to help work with lawyers across every agency in the federal government to start getting a sense of what statutes would be implicated and what it will mean for us to administratively apply the rule that federal benefits apply to all married couples.

What’s true though is that you still have a whole bunch of states that do not recognize it.  The Supreme Court continues to leave it up to the states to make these decisions.  And we are going to have to go back and do a legal analysis of what that means.  It’s my personal belief — but I’m speaking now as a President as opposed to as a lawyer — that if you’ve been married in Massachusetts and you move someplace else, you’re still married, and that under federal law you should be able to obtain the benefits of any lawfully married couple.  But I’m speaking as a President, not a lawyer.

So we’re going to be evaluating all these issues and making sure that we work through them in a systematic and prompt way, because now that the Supreme Court has spoken it’s important that people who deserve these benefits know that they’re getting them quickly.  And I know that, for example, Chuck Hagel already mentioned some work that the Department of Defense is doing on that front.  And I think we’re going to be seeing that in all the various agencies.

Now, this topic did not come up in the conversation that I had with President Sall in a bilateral meeting.  But let me just make a general statement.  The issue of gays and lesbians, and how they’re treated, has come up and has been controversial in many parts of Africa.  So I want the African people just to hear what I believe, and that is that every country, every group of people, every religion have different customs, different traditions.  And when it comes to people’s personal views and their religious faith, et cetera, I think we have to respect the diversity of views that are there.

But when it comes to how the state treats people, how the law treats people, I believe that everybody has to be treated equally.  I don’t believe in discrimination of any sort.  That’s my personal view.  And I speak as somebody who obviously comes from a country in which there were times when people were not treated equally under the law, and we had to fight long and hard through a civil rights struggle to make sure that happens.

So my basic view is that regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, when it comes to how the law treats you, how the state treats you — the benefits, the rights and the responsibilities under the law — people should be treated equally.  And that’s a principle that I think applies universally, and the good news is it’s an easy principle to remember.

Every world religion has this basic notion that is embodied in the Golden Rule — treat people the way you want to be treated.  And I think that applies here as well.

U.S. Department of State Statement on Supreme Court Ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act

The U.S. Department of State applauds the Supreme Court’s decision striking down an unjust and discriminatory law and increasing freedom and equality for LGBT Americans.

As a Senator, I voted against DOMA in 1996 and argued that it was unconstitutional. As Secretary of State, I look forward to the work that now can and must be done to adjust rules and regulations that affect the many married Americans who were hurt by this law. While I am incredibly proud of the job that the State Department has done in ensuring equal benefits for our employees, there’s more to be done. To fully implement the requirements and implications of the Court’s decision, we will work with the Department of Justice and other agencies to review all relevant federal statutes as well as the benefits administered by this agency. We will work to swiftly administer these changes to ensure that every employee and their spouse have access to their due benefits regardless of sexual orientation both at home and abroad.

I am proud of the progress we’re making in this arena, and particularly proud that I work for a President who has helped to lead the way forward. From Stonewall to the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ despite setbacks along the way, the arc of our history on this issue has bent towards inclusion and equality, perhaps never more so than today.

Statement by the President on the Supreme Court Ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act

I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.  This was discrimination enshrined in law.  It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people.  The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it.  We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

This ruling is a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents’ marriages will now be recognized, rightly, as legitimate; for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve; and for friends and supporters who have wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and have worked hard to persuade their nation to change for the better.

So we welcome today’s decision, and I’ve directed the Attorney General to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.

On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also vital.  How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions.  Nothing about this decision – which applies only to civil marriages – changes that.

The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts:  when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.

LGBT Advocacy Groups Stand With Civil Rights Counterparts in Disappointment at Supreme Court Ruling on Voting Rights

Press Statement released on behalf of the named organizations on today’s ruling

Washington, DC – Today, the Supreme Court struck down a central part of the Voting Rights Act, invalidating crucial protections passed by Congress in 1965 and renewed four times in the decades since. The sharply divided decision will significantly reduce the federal government’s role in overseeing voting laws in areas with a history of discrimination against African-Americans.

We, America’s leading LGBT advocacy organizations, join civil rights organizations – and indeed, all Americans whom this law has served to protect – in expressing acute dismay at today’s ruling. Not only had Congress repeatedly reaffirmed the need for this bedrock civil rights protection, but authoritative voices from across America had filed amicus briefs urging the court not to undermine the law: the NAACP; the American Bar Association; the Navajo Nation; the states of New York, California, Mississippi and North Carolina; numerous former Justice Department officials charged with protecting voting rights; dozens of U.S. senators and representatives; and many others.

These varied and powerful voices attest to the self-evident reality that racial protections are still needed in voting in this country. As recently as last year’s elections, political partisans resorted to voter suppression laws and tactics aimed at reducing the votes of people of color.

Voting rights protections, which have long served our nation’s commitment to equality and justice, should not be cast aside now. The court has done America a grave disservice, and we will work with our coalition partners to undo the damage inflicted by this retrogressive ruling.

Center for Black Equity

CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers

The Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals

Equality Federation

Family Equality Council

Freedom to Marry

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders

Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC)

Human Rights Campaign

Immigration Equality Action Fund

Lambda Legal

National Black Justice Coalition

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates

PFLAG – Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays

Pride at Work, AFL-CIO

Unid@s

Global Equality Fund Advances Human Rights of LGBT Communities

2013_0619_pride_ukraine-apphotoRepost from DipNote

PRIDE events abound in the month of June, especially here in the nation’s capital.  John Kerry has championed LGBT equality for over 30 years, and now as Secretary he is leading the Department’s global fight to promote the human rights of LGBT individuals across the world.  Today, Secretary Kerry delivered keynote remarks at the Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) Pride event at the State Department.  During his speech, the Secretary acknowledged and thanked the governments and organizations that have partnered with the Secretary’s Global Equality Fund.  Launched in December 2011, the Fund represents a unique collaboration bridging governments, companies, foundations, and NGOs with the objective of advancing and protecting the human rights of LGBT persons worldwide.

The Fund currently provides critical emergency and long-term assistance in over 25 countries through small grants, capacity-building, and emergency protection.  Our staff in U.S. embassies and consulates around the world play a strong role in helping to manage the Global Equality Fund, providing assistance and resources to local communities, as well as oversight to ensure grants are implemented appropriately, maximizing the impact of small investments.  For example, the Fund supports regional workshops on legislative advocacy, human rights documentation and monitoring, and other capacity-building activities that strengthen the ability of local organizations to respond to the anti-LGBT legislation recently introduced in a number of eastern European countries. Continue Reading

Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks at the GLIFAA Pride Event

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) Pride Event at the U.S Department of State in Washington, DC on June 19, 2013.

A text transcript can be found at http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/06/210910.htm

Obama Calls for LGBT Equality in Berlin Speech

President Barack Obama

Earlier today, President Obama addressed the German people in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and expressed his commitment to LGBT people.

“When we stand up for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and treat their love and their rights equally under the law, we defend our own liberty as well.  We are more free when all people can pursue their own happiness. We are more free when all people can pursue their own happiness.  And as long as walls exist in our hearts to separate us from those who don’t look like us, or think like us, or worship as we do, then we’re going to have to work harder, together, to bring those walls of division down.”  

Echoing his 2013 inaugural address, where he stated, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well”, Obama called on the international community to continue to push for LGBT human rights.

You can read the text of the full speech here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/19/remarks-president-obama-brandenburg-gate-berlin-germany

Also today, Secretary of State John Kerry will speak at the State Departments pride celebration. Today’s speech will mark the first time, Kerry, as Secretary of State will address LGBT equality and how the foreign affairs community can support the human rights of LGBT persons globally. Mara Kiesling, Executive Director, of the National Center for Transgender Equality will also be speaking at today’s event. Details from this event will be posted as they become available.


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