Blog Posts Related to the LGBT Community

  • Standing Up for LGBT Rights Around the World

    Vice President Joe Biden gives the keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign gala in Los Angeles, Calif., March 22, 2014.

    Vice President Joe Biden gives the keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign gala in Los Angeles, Calif., March 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    “The rights of LGBT people [are] an inseparable part of America’s promotion of human rights around the world,” Vice President Joe Biden declared to a packed audience at the Human Rights Campaign Los Angeles gala on Saturday night.

    In a world where homosexuality is a crime in almost 80 countries — punishable by death in 7 — the Vice President reasserted America’s unwavering commitment to LGBT rights in every corner of the world. “Hate,” he explained, “can never, never be defended because it’s a so-called cultural norm.”

  • Reflecting on India: Challenges and Opportunities for the LGBT Community

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from Export-Import Bank of the United States.

    After reflecting on my recent trip  to India, I’m reminded that in many countries around the world, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community continue to face political, social, and cultural hurdles that prevent them from achieving full equality. Some of those challenges cut across borders, while others are shaped in unique ways by the historical and modern  circumstances of each nation. As President and Chairman of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, I have the opportunity to travel  to many of these countries—and I make a point of trying to meet with local LGBT communities to hear directly from them about their challenges, goals, and achievements.
     
    As I often do after these meetings, I’ve reflected many times on the stories I heard from members of the Indian LGBT community, and on the particular challenges they’re facing now. In December 2013, India’s Supreme Court upheld Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a 150-year-old law that effectively criminalizes homosexuality. This decision was highly controversial and drew significant criticism from a range of sectors, including from the Indian government—and it was a devastating blow to the equality and dignity of gay and lesbian Indians.
     
    I had the opportunity to meet with  some of the leaders in the Indian LGBT community during my visit and discuss some of the challenges confronting them. I gained insight on the lives of LGBT Indians from GaysiFamily, an organization working to create a safe space for LGBT communities and promote awareness of LGBT rights. I also had the chance to meet Prince  Manvendra—an openly gay member of one of India’s royal families—who shared his insights with me on the difficulties of coming out and the obstacles to equality that remain in India.
     
    Despite the challenges and  uncertainties that many LGBT Indians face, there’s reason for hope—and that reason is the courage, passion, and steadfast commitment of LGBT advocates and allies like the individuals I met, as well as organizations in Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and across the country. From pride parades to Bollywood films, awareness of LGBT issues in India is rising quickly. As long as these advocates and allies continue to work for reform, I remain optimistic that  meaningful progress will soon be within their grasp—and that we in America will do our part to support their courageous work for equality.
     
    Fred P. Hochberg is Chairman and President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

  • Making Health Care Coverage More Accessible and Equitable for Same-Sex Couples

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the Department of Health and Human Services' health care blog. See the original post here.

    Today, the Department of Health and Human Services took one more step toward making health care coverage more accessible and equitable for married same-sex couples.

    Already, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 4.2 million people have signed up for private health insurance plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Marketplace plans cover essential health benefits like emergency services, prescription drugs and mental health and substance use disorder services. And preventive services like flu shots, blood pressure screening and HIV screening are covered at no additional charge.

    Moreover, all health plans sold in the Marketplace have to follow rules that make health care more accessible for everyone. You can’t be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition, like HIV/AIDS or cancer, and you can’t be charged more for being a woman.

    Today, we are clarifying that, starting next year, if an insurance company offers coverage to opposite-sex spouses, it cannot choose to deny that coverage to same-sex spouses. In other words, insurance companies will not be permitted to discriminate against married same-sex couples when offering coverage. This will further enhance access to health care for all Americans, including those with same-sex spouses.

  • Ensuring a “Time to Thrive” for LGBTQ Youth

    Last weekend, the Human Rights Campaign, in partnership with the National Education Association and American Counseling Association, hosted the first-ever “Time to Thrive” conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. The conference brought together hundreds of educators, school administrators, coaches, social workers, mental health providers, and other youth development staff for a conversation about promoting safety, inclusion, and well-being among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.

    Since taking office, President Obama and his Administration have taken significant steps to advance equality for the LGBT community – including addressing and preventing bullying and harassment of LGBT young people in classrooms and communities around the country. That’s why I was proud to moderate a panel discussion with colleagues from the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture to highlight some of the bullying prevention and youth empowerment resources available across the federal government.

    View video footage of the panel discussion, including a special video message from Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama.

    If you want to learn more, check out these resources:

    White House Resources

    StopBullying.gov

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

    U.S. Department of Education

    U.S. Department of Justice

    U.S. Department of Agriculture

    Gautam Raghavan is an Advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement.

  • Thank You, Edie Windsor

    On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. The case was United States v. Windsor, and it was filed by a woman named Edie Windsor who had to pay nearly $400,000 in federal estate taxes after her wife, Thea Spyer, passed away in 2007. While the State of New York recognized their marriage, the federal government did not – because of DOMA. 

    Following the Court’s historic ruling in Windsor, the Administration has moved to implement the decision so that loving, committed, legally married same-sex couples can enjoy the same federal rights, benefits and obligations as other married couples. Just this Monday, the Justice Department issued a new policy memorandum to “formally instruct all Justice Department employees to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law.”

    When the Court handed down its decision last June, President Obama called Edie from Air Force One to congratulate her on her victory. And earlier this week, the President invited Edie to the France State Dinner and the Oval Office to thank her in person.

    President Barack Obama meets with Edie Windsor during a drop by in the Oval Office

    President Barack Obama meets with Edie Windsor during a drop by in the Oval Office, Feb. 12, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    The thanks expressed by the President that day have been echoed by millions of Americans, including thousands of legally married couples who can now live their lives with greater justice and dignity – thanks to heroes like Edie Windsor who have been willing to stand up and fight for equality under the law.

    Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

  • Equality in Privileges, Protections and Rights

    Last June, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in United States v. Windsor, a landmark decision that found unconstitutional a provision of law that treated loving, committed and married same-sex couples as a separate and lesser class of people.

    Immediately following the Court’s decision, President Obama directed the Attorney General, Eric Holder, to lead the Administration’s implementation of the Windsor decision to “review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, [was] implemented swiftly and smoothly.” And over the last seven months, the Obama Administration has done just that, extending critically important benefits – from federal tax treatment to military spousal benefits  for legally married same-sex couples, even those living in states that don’t recognize their marriage.

    On Saturday, in remarks delivered at the Human Rights Campaign Greater New York Gala, Attorney General Holder described the importance of the Court’s ruling in Windsor:

    This marked a critical step forward.  And it constituted a resounding victory for committed and loving couples throughout the country who fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents had been denied the recognition that they deserved; and for millions of family, friends, and supporters who wanted to see their loved ones treated fairly, and who worked tirelessly to make that a reality.

    The Attorney General also stressed that we still have work to do, and to that end, announced that today, he is issuing a new policy memorandum that will “formally instruct all Justice Department employees to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law.”

    As the Attorney General said:

    This means that, in every courthouse, in every proceeding, and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States – they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections, and rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law.  And this policy has important, real-world implications for same-sex married couples that interact with the criminal justice system.

    President Obama said in his Second Inaugural Address, “If we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” Today, thanks to the Court’s historic ruling, the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder, and a fundamental commitment to equality that exists across the Obama Administration, we are truly moving towards a more perfect union.

    Read the Attorney General’s remarks as prepared and learn more about the Justice Department’s new policy guidance.

    Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

  • Sharpening Our Focus to Meet National Goals on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from AIDS.GOV

    As we observe National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) 2014, we are reminded that African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV/AIDS in the United States. Among African Americans, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (Black MSM) are especially hard hit, representing more than half of all estimated new HIV infections among African Americans each year. A particularly disconcerting estimate in 2010 showed that young Black MSM aged 13 to 24 accounted for the greatest number (4,800) of estimated new HIV infections among African Americans.

    Furthermore, from an analysis of data about African Americans diagnosed with HIV infection from 19 jurisdictions that CDC released yesterday, we know that compared to Black women, Black men — regardless of transmission category — have lower levels of linkage to and retention in HIV care and are less likely to have achieved viral suppression (i.e., have controlled the virus at a level that helps keep them healthy and reduces their risk of transmitting the virus to others). The study also revealed that by transmission category, men with infection attributed to male-to-male sexual contact had the lowest percentage of linkage to care.

    These disparities highlight that, despite important strides that have been made toward national HIV prevention, care and treatment goals, we clearly have more work to do as a nation to effectively address HIV among Black MSM, especially with regard to outcomes along the HIV care continuum [PDF 1.9MB].

    The National HIV/AIDS Strategy highlights both the disproportionate impact of HIV among MSM in the U.S., the concentration of HIV among Black MSM within the African American community, and clearly states that “the United States cannot reduce the number of HIV infections nationally without better addressing HIV among gay and bisexual men.” The Strategy also observes that our national commitment to this population has not always been commensurate with their disproportionate burden of HIV. 

    So, as we mark the annual observance of NBHAAD, we all—both individually and collectively—are called to be even more thoughtful, creative, and focused about actions we can undertake to strengthen HIV prevention, testing, care and treatment for Black MSM in communities across the United States. 

    Among federal programs, several important activities are underway in this regard: 

    • Increasing the capacity, quality, and effectiveness of HIV/AIDS service providers to serve Black MSMApplications are due later this month for a new Resource/TA Center for HIV Prevention and Care for Black MSM being supported by HRSA’s HIV/AIDS Bureau. To assist HIV service and other healthcare providers, the new center will identify, compile, and disseminate best practices and effective models for HIV clinical care and treatment across the HIV care continuum for adult and young Black MSM ages 13 to 24.
    • Promoting and supporting HIV testing among Black MSM – CDC’s Testing Makes Us Stronger social marketing campaign encourages Black MSM to get tested for HIV. Through compelling campaign ads in national magazines and on targeted websites, as well as through local advertising and materials distribution in target cities, CDC emphasizes the importance of getting tested for HIV regularly to help stop the spread of the epidemic. The campaign also includes a Facebook  page and a dedicated website with a suite of campaign materials available for individuals and organizations to download and distribute. Complementing this important outreach campaign, CDC makes significant investments in both health departments and community-based organizations to support high impact prevention activities, including testing.  
    • Supporting engagement in HIV care – The HHS Office for Civil Rights’ Information is Powerful Medicine campaign focuses specifically on Black MSM, underscoring how having access to your medical records can help you better manage your health. Access to this information empowers patients to track their progress, monitor their lab results, communicate with their treatment teams, and adhere to their important treatment plans. The campaign also provides information on e-health tools, such as the “Blue Button,” which make it easier, safer, and faster for consumers to get access to their health information.
    • Strengthening state efforts for Black MSM – Under the Care and Prevention and Prevention of HIV in the U.S. (CAPUS) demonstration project, several of the eight participating states are focusing their efforts specifically on Black MSM. The three-year demonstration project is supported by the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund and seeks to support these states, each with disproportionately high burdens of HIV/AIDS among minority communities, to improve HIV testing, engagement, and retention in care among racial and ethnic minorities. In Illinois, for example, the state health department has launched a youth of color-specific initiative in East St. Louis to co-locate medical (including LGBT health), psychosocial, prevention and support services in a single setting by collaborating with the local health department and community-based organizations in East St. Louis, Illinois and across the river in St. Louis, Missouri.
    • Supporting Implementation Research – The focus of the ongoing NIH-supported HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 073  study is determining the willingness of Black MSM to use a daily antiretroviral pill as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Studies such as HPTN 073 are critical in bridging our understanding between biomedical advances in HIV prevention and behavioral, social and structural factors that are often in play. 

    “We are greatly encouraged that many of these federal activities are consistent with recommendations made during our 2012 consultation with community leaders and federal partners about HIV among Black MSM,” notes Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases. “These efforts, and many more underway at the federal as well as state and local levels, are vital to reducing new HIV infections among Black MSM and to improving outcomes all along the HIV care continuum for this disproportionately impacted population.”

    Timothy Harrison is a Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 

  • How Obamacare Helps the LGBT Community

    Since taking office, President Obama and his Administration have taken significant steps to advance equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. You’ve probably heard of many of these accomplishments: repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination in hospitals and in housing, promoting international LGBT human rights, standing up against DOMA and then implementing the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor.

    That’s an important, and exciting, list of accomplishments over the last few years – but it’s missing one very important accomplishment: the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

    The Affordable Care Act has the potential to transform the lives of countless LGBT people and improve the health and well-being of our community – for generations to come.

    Here’s why: