Blog Posts Related to the LGBT Community

  • Improving Health for LGBT Americans

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the HHS Blog.

    On this historic day, it’s important to recall that, for too long, the health concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals were pushed to the side. LGBT Americans faced limited access to health care and insurance. And we have been less likely to get the preventive care we need to stay healthy.

    The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is committed to promoting the health and well-being of all Americans, including LGBT Americans. And the Affordable Care Act provides a foundation for achieving that goal.

    The Affordable Care Act helps LGBT Americans in four major ways:

    1. Protecting our right to access quality, affordable health insurance. Starting in 2014, the health care law prevents insurers from denying us coverage or charging us a higher premium because of a pre-existing condition or because we are LGBT.
    2. Removing lifetime dollar limits on coverage. That means that people with chronic diseases, like HIV/AIDS, cancer and mental health concerns, can get the care we need. And starting in 2014, all annual limits will be illegal, too.
    3. Promoting wellness by requiring insurers to cover preventive care at no additional cost. LGBT adults and teens can get screened by a health professional for HIV and depression without paying co-pays or deductibles. Other preventive services, like cervical cancer screening for sexually active women, obesity counseling for people at risk, and well-woman visits are also covered at no extra cost.
    4. Helping more LGBT Americans find affordable health insurance. Starting October 1, 2013, all Americans without insurance and those looking for better options will have a new place to shop for plans, the Health Insurance Marketplace, and may qualify for lower costs on monthly premiums.

    By protecting consumers, promoting prevention, and expanding access, HHS and the Affordable Care Act are now leading the way to greater equality, security, and wellness for LGBT Americans – one more reason this is a Pride Month to celebrate!

    Improving Health for LGBT Americans

    Photo Credit of the Department of Health and Human Services

    Jason Young is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs/Health Care.

  • Supreme Court Strikes Down the Defense of Marriage Act

    Today, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. In a statement released shortly after the Court’s ruling was announced, President Obama applauded the decision.

    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.

  • Pride at the White House

    Every year since taking office, President Obama has invited members and allies of the LGBT community to celebrate Pride Month at the White House. Tomorrow, the President will host this event for the fifth time, to bring together national leaders, elected officials, faith leaders, members of the military and veterans community, and local advocates and organizers to reflect upon the progress we’ve made and recommit to the work that lies ahead.

    This year, the White House invited nine Americans from across the country to attend the White House LGBT Pride Month Reception on Thursday, June 13.  All of them are members or allies of the LGBT community who wrote letters to the President to express their thanks and to share their hopes, ambitions, and concerns for the future. 

    Check out a video of White House staff inviting the letter writers to the White House Pride reception, and then watch the President’s remarks live at the reception on Thursday, June 13, starting around 5:00 PM EDT.

  • Honoring Harvey Milk Champions of Change

    Harvey Milk Champions of Change, 5.24.13

    Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk and Founder of the Milk Foundation, with seven of the Harvey Milk Champions of Change, May 22, 2013 (photo courtesy of the Office of Public Engagement). May 24, 2013. (by Office of Public Engagement)

    Earlier this week, the White House honored ten openly LGBT elected or appointed officials as “Harvey Milk Champions of Change.”  The event took place on May 22nd – Harvey Milk's birthday – and was intended to pay tribute to Harvey Milk’s life, leadership, and legacy.

    Established in 2011, the White House Champions of Change program regularly spotlights Americans who are doing extraordinary things for their community, their country, and their fellow citizens.  The ten LGBT officials honored as Harvey Milk Champions were chosen for their strong commitment to both equality and public service.

    In the words of Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, “When President Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Medal of Freedom in 2009, he praised his leadership and courage in running for office.  Today, we honor Harvey Milk’s legacy in these ten outstanding public servants, who will surely inspire the next generation of public servants.”

    The following individuals were honored as Harvey Milk Champions of Change:

    • Simone Bell, Georgia State Representative (Atlanta, GA)
    • Angie Buhl O'Donnell, South Dakota State Senator (Sioux Falls, SD)
    • Karen Clark, Minnesota State Representative (South Minneapolis, MN)
    • Michael Gin, Mayor of Redondo Beach (Redondo Beach, CA)
    • Kim Coco Iwamoto, Hawaii State Civil Rights Commissioner (Honolulu, HI)
    • John Laird, California Secretary of Natural Resources (Santa Cruz, CA)
    • Ricardo Lara, California State Senator (Long Beach, CA)
    • Kim Painter, Johnson Country Recorder (Iowa City, IA)
    • Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati City Council Member (Cincinnati, OH)
    • Pat Steadman, Colorado State Senator (Denver, CO)

  • Proving them Wrong

    Chris Seelbach

    As a middle-class kid from Kentucky, I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio for college.  When I arrived, I found a city deeply divided on issues of race and sexual orientation.

    Five years prior to my arrival, Cincinnati voters passed perhaps the most anti-gay local law our country has ever seen.  The law, Article XII, denied the city from even considering the inclusion of sexual orientation or gender identity in the housing & workplace non-discrimination law.  A double whammy.  Three years after my arrival, the city erupted into a racial unrest.

    Coming from a family of fighters, I immediately began trying to create change.   While in law school, I helped lead the efforts to repeal Article XII.  We spent two years going door-to-door, having honest conversations with people on the door steps about gay rights.  We said the word “gay.”  We didn't talk about general terms like "equality" and "fairness," but engaged people in why we thought it was wrong to fire someone or deny them housing based solely on who they loved.  These conversations were the catalyst to the successful repeal, the only winning gay-rights initiative in the country in 2004 (a year when 13 states banned marriage equality in their constitutions).

    After my long-term mentor & Vice-Mayor of the City of Cincinnati, David Crowley, was term limited in 2009 and soon thereafter passed away, I decided to run for Council.  All the political experts and insiders said the same thing:  “It’s impossible for you to win: 1) You’re not originally from here; 2) You’re too young; and 3) You’re openly gay.”

    That kind of skepticism has always been my biggest motivation.  I am most motivated by proving to the world that it doesn’t matter: 1) What color your skin is; 2) How much money you make; 3) Where you were born; or 4) Who you love.  If you have good ideas, work really hard & treat people with respect, there are no limits to success.

    And we did prove them wrong!  In 2011, on my first run for political office, I became the first openly gay person elected in Cincinnati, Ohio and the first openly gay man elected in any of the four major cities throughout Ohio.  Since my election, I have lead the efforts to: 1) Extend equal partner health benefits to all city employees; 2) Create an LGBT police & fire liaison; and 3) Make it mandatory for anyone accepting city funding or subsidies to agree, in writing, to an inclusive non-discrimination policy.  These efforts have results in a 19-point increase in the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index.  And all of these votes were passed by a 9-member Council that consists of 5 African Americans, 3 women and four political parties (Democrats, Republicans, Independents & Charterites).

    My story continues today as we strive to create a city (and a world) where we all feel valued, welcomed and respected.

    Chris Seelbach is a Cincinnati Council Member

  • A Public Service Career with Purpose

    Michael Gin

    Throughout my public service career, I have quietly promoted an issue that is close to my heart: the importance of civil rights for LGBT individuals.  Over the years, my husband Christopher has attended numerous public events and functions with me.  The Redondo Beach and South Bay Community has personally become familiar with the two of us being together and doing the things that any other married elected official couple would do.  Redondo Beach residents would frequently see and converse with us while shopping for groceries and running other errands through town.  In 2012, I was honored as the Morris Kight Political Grand Marshal of the Long Beach, CA LGBT Pride Parade.

    In 2011, I had the honor of appearing on NPR’s “All Things Considered” program with Karen Grigsby-Bates.  Ms. Grigsby-Bates interviewed several Mayors from throughout the county for her piece “Governing in Tough Times” and discussed how each Mayor was dealing with the Great Recession in their cities.  During the program, Ms. Grigsby-Bates highlighted a photo of me and my husband, Christopher.  After the program aired, I received many positive and supportive comments from the community and beyond, that my husband was featured on a national radio program.  While the program was not specifically geared towards LGBT issues, I found an opportunity to help spread the importance of civil rights for LGBT individuals throughout our community and Nation.

    One of my proudest moments on a national stage came during my farewell speech in January at the 2013 Winter Meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors.  Since 2009, I have had the honor of serving on the Advisory Board of the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM).  The USCM membership is comprised of Mayors of the principal cities from throughout the United States whose cities’ populations exceed 30,000.  At the end of my farewell speech, I pointed out my husband Christopher in the audience and personally thanked him for always being with me throughout my service as Mayor.  The room full of several hundred mayors from throughout the United States gave me a standing ovation.

    Michael A. Gin is Mayor of Redondo Beach, CA.

  • Equal Rights in Colorado

    Pat Steadman

    I’ve been working for equal rights in Colorado for over two decades.  While I was attending law school at the University of Colorado I became involved in local LGBT rights campaigns.  In 1991, I campaigned against a voter-initiated repeal of Denver’s recently amended civil rights ordinance.   The city council added protections based on sexual orientation, but right after it took effect a petition drive was started to repeal the new protections.  The equal protection ordinance survived the election. 

    Later that year a petition was circulated to place an anti-gay amendment to the state constitution on the ballot.  Known as “Amendment 2,” the initiative was passed by voters in 1992, sparking a boycott and leading to Colorado being called the “Hate State.”  I worked on the campaign opposing Amendment 2 and organized the lawsuit challenging it in court.  The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court and resulted in the landmark Romer v. Evans decision in 1996, the first major victory for LGBT rights in our nation’s highest court.  

    My involvement in LGBT rights led me to a career in politics.  I spent fifteen years lobbying the General Assembly and running statewide ballot initiative campaigns.  My clients included school districts, health care providers, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization and other progressive groups.  In 2009, I was elected to fill the remainder of a state senate term.  I’ve been twice re-elected to the seat.

    I’ve watched the State of Colorado evolve its thinking on LGBT issues.  The Amendment 2 litigation sparked a backlash, and when the case concluded the legislature began a prolonged debate over same-sex marriage.  But the first state legislator came out, and soon openly gay candidates were getting elected.  The more we talked about our issues and the more visible we became, the more progress we made.  Early setbacks and legislative roadblocks gave us a reason to organize, mobilize and elect supporters.  Slowly, and with perseverance, things began to change.

    It took 10 years, but in 2005 we passed legislation expanding Colorado’s existing hate crimes act to include sexual orientation and gender identity.  In 2007, a new governor signed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that his predecessor had twice vetoed.  He went on to sign housing and public accommodations protections, second-parent adoption, equal benefits, and a new estate planning tool for unmarried persons known as a “designated beneficiary agreement.”

    My predecessor in the Colorado Senate was the first openly LGBT person to serve in the legislature.  Today there are eight, including the Speaker of the House.  I now serve as the Chair of the Joint Budget Committee, one of the most powerful positions in our legislature.  In the recently completed 2013 legislative session I was the prime sponsor of the Colorado Civil Unions Act, a law that took effect on May 1, 2013.  Because of a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2006, marriage equality is prohibited in our state, and civil unions are the most the legislature can do until the constitution is amended again, or until the right lawsuit comes around.  Judging from the progress we’ve made in Colorado and all across the country we’re optimistic that things will continue to get better.

    Pat Steadman is a Colorado State Senator. 

  • Making Change with Integrity

    John Laird

    In working in my city, county, and state for over forty years, I have always had the goal of making change by working together with others to improve my community – and being clear about who I am.

    Thirty-five years ago, I joined with others to found a community credit union to provide credit for those who couldn’t get it, and keep our money local for reinvestment – an organization that now has thousands of members and tens of millions in assets and has led to the creation of many local jobs.  Almost thirty years ago, I was one of the six gay men that organized our local AIDS service agency.  I served as executive director for three years at the height of the epidemic, organizing hundreds of volunteers to educate the general public and to provide support to those with HIV.

    As a City Councilmember and Mayor, I was part of a team that brought new people into the municipal system, won a court case to establish greenbelts around our city, and established one of the early domestic partner benefit programs in the country. 

    As a state legislator, I authored eighty-two bills signed into law, and led my house in budget matters as Assembly Budget Chair.  I was proud that one of my civil rights bills was the basis for a state Supreme Court decision protecting a gay couple in adoption matters and that other bills restored community college health services, established the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, and expanded water conservation state-wide.

    As a member of the Governor’s cabinet, I have worked at his direction to finish the establishment of the largest network of marine protected areas in the nation, help save the Lake Tahoe Compact, and help him be on target to meet the state’s goal of 33% renewable energy by 2020.

    In each of these efforts, I have worked to be the best person for the job – while being clear who I was. In 1983, I was one of the first three openly gay mayors in the country – all elected that year.  When elected to the State Assembly, I was one of the first two openly gay men ever elected to the California legislature.  In my work I have been proud to have made a difference.

    John Laird is the California Secretary for Natural Resources.