Blog Posts Related to the LGBT Community

  • Fierce, fearless, and out

    Simone Bell

    I have cared about people all of my life. My earliest memory goes back to when I was around seven or eight years old and I stood up for another child who was being bullied and called names due to a disability. I put myself between her and a group of mean kids. That innate sense of love, the idea that I would offer myself as a shield and dare to speak out against injustice rose up in me like a lioness protecting her cub. It was the beginning of my activism and advocacy. I’ve been doing so ever since.

    I came out to myself and my family as a lesbian in my early teens. Not really knowing what made me feel different, but fully understanding that I was. I searched for a language to explain my difference and in a ninth grade health class I learned the word lesbian and felt immediately at home. I embraced that word and myself. And I LOVED me. I was fortunate enough to attend Cass Technical High School, where individuality, community and excellence were nurtured. I met others that were different like me and we became a family of young people – fierce, fearless/fearful and OUT. We remain a family today.

    Being an activist who is fierce, fearless/fearful and OUT became the foundation on which I built my life. No matter what work I’ve done, I’ve performed it within a framework of activism and advocacy with a strong sense of social justice, and civil and human rights. Whether I was managing physician practices, volunteering with youth, assisting senior citizens, supporting lesbians living with cancer or traveling the South fighting for the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people and those living with HIV/AIDS, the work has always been about speaking truth to power. It is always about seeking justice and being a voice for the silenced, the fearful and the most vulnerable.

    After 20 years of experience as an activist and advocate around this broad range of issues, preparation and opportunity crossed paths and I, along with a team of ambitious supporters, set out to take a seat at the table of decision making by running for Georgia State House of Representatives District 58. Not only did we win, but our campaign solidified me as the first African American OUT lesbian to serve in a State House in the United States.

    As State Representative, I continue to do as I did so many years ago for that young child with the disability, placing myself between the people whose voices are silenced and legislation and policies that are regressive and seek to destroy. I champion causes and legislation that lends itself to fostering a more just society for the issues dearest to my heart: workplace equality; access to affordable and quality health care; fighting HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination; safe and effective schools for ALL students; youth empowerment and women’s issues.

    I am so thankful for the amazing people who nominated me for this prestigious award. I appreciate their kind words on my behalf and their continued support. I am also very thankful for the White House for creating the Champions of Change program. It’s pretty awesome to be recognized for simply being who I was born to be – fierce, fearless/fearful and OUT!

    Simone Bell is a Georgia State Representative.

  • Peace Corps Announces New Service Opportunity for Same-Sex Couples

    Earlier today, Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet announced that, starting June 3, the agency will begin accepting applications from same-sex domestic partners who want to serve together as volunteers overseas. 

    “Service in the Peace Corps is a life-defining leadership experience for Americans who want to make a difference around the world,” Deputy Director Hessler-Radelet said. “I am proud that the agency is taking this important step forward to allow same-sex domestic partners to serve overseas together.”

    Expanding service opportunities to same-sex domestic partners is not only consistent with the Obama Administration’s ongoing commitment to advancing equality for the LGBT community, it also further diversifies the pool of Peace Corps applicants and the skills of those invited to serve overseas in the fields of education, health, community economic development, environment, youth in development and agriculture.  

    Learn more about serving in the Peace Corps as a same-sex couple.

  • Fair Housing Means EVERYONE

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

    This past Wednesday, Secretary Donovan spoke to the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) and highlighted the many accomplishments the Administration and HUD have realized on behalf of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender (LGBT) Americans:

    HUD and this administration have taken historic steps in the area of housing to ensure that we fulfill our nation’s commitment to equality.

    As part of its financial support for housing and urban development programs, HUD awards millions of dollars every year through competitive grant programs, funding that is announced by Notices of Funding Availability (or NOFAs). HUD has long required that outstanding civil rights violations must be resolved before an applicant can be considered eligible to compete for funds. More recently, HUD added to its requirements that an eligible grantee may not have outstanding civil rights violations of a state or local law prohibiting housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

    HUD has included similar anti-discrimination provisions in other areas. For example, some courts in Title VII civil rights challenges have applied principles of sex discrimination for gender stereotyping, which has provided limited but important civil rights protections for transgender individuals. Expanding on this in 2010, HUD formally adopted the principle that housing discrimination because of non-conformity with gender stereotypes – essentially gender identity discrimination – is sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.

    The following year, HUD enacted an important rule: Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity. This rule does four important things to ensure that LGBT persons are not excluded from HUD’s programs:

    • It creates a broad requirement that housing falling within these categories is made available without regard to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
    • It clarifies HUD’s definitions of “family” and “household” and reaffirms that these include all persons regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
    • It prohibits those funded by HUD or insured by FHA from asking about an applicant or occupant’s sexual orientation or gender identity for purposes of housing eligibility.
    • And finally, the rule prohibits FHA approved lenders from basing eligibility determinations for FHA-insured loans on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

    Earlier this year, HUD reached a historic agreement with Bank of America (BofA) to settle allegations the mortgage lender refused to provide financing to a lesbian couple and had illegally based its denial on the couple’s sexual orientation and marital status.

    Moving forward, HUD will continue to aggressively investigate these kinds of violations. And, using our research arm, we’ll study and monitor trends in fair housing. Next month HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research will release the first ever study of Housing Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples.

    As Secretary Donovan said to National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals, “Housing opportunities should be available to ALL persons.”

  • Ambassador Susan Rice Marks International Day Against Homophobia

    Today, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice released a video message to mark International Day Against Homophobia.

  • Observing National Day of Silence

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the Department of Education Blog

    Today GLSEN hosts its national Day of Silence—a day where students throughout the country take a vow of silence to call attention to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools. I want to encourage all of us NOT to be silent on an important issue: the need to address and eliminate bullying and harassment in our schools.

    No student should ever feel unsafe in school. If students don’t feel safe, they can’t learn. And if left unaddressed, bullying and harassment can rapidly escalate into even more serious abuse.

    I want to remind students, parents, and administrators of the power of supportive clubs, like the Gay Straight Alliances or GSAs, to foster safe school environments. The Department of Education has provided guidance to schools on their obligations under federal laws to provide equal access to extracurricular clubs, including GSAs, as well to address bullying and harassment and gender-based violence.

    Let’s work together to end bullying and harassment in schools.

    Please visit StopBullying.gov and find additional resources from the Department of Education below–including school obligations under federal law:

    Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education

  • On the Road in Boyle Heights, CA: Working Toward a Healthy LGBTQ Community

    Over the last four years, we have seen tremendous, historic change take place across the federal government, from signing into law federal protections for LGBT victims of hate crimes, to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” to implementing new policies and programs to address the health and safety of LGBT individuals. And at the same time, local communities across the country are taking action to address the inequalities and disparities faced by LGBT people.

    Gautam Raghavan Speaks at LGBTQ forum April 2013

    (Photo courtesy of Latino Equality Alliance)

    I recently had the opportunity to travel to one of these communities to see this progress in person. Earlier this month, I visited Boyle Heights, California – a neighborhood in East Los Angeles – for an LGBTQ Forum hosted by the Latino Equality Alliance in collaboration with The California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities initiative. The event brought together service providers, families, advocates, and individuals from the nearby communities for a resource fair, plenaries, and workshop sessions.

    Some of the key issues that were raised throughout the day included family acceptance, access to affordable health care and housing, and increased opportunities for local service providers. In addition, many of the participants I met were particularly interested in President Obama’s call for commonsense immigration reform that will keep our families together and allow DREAMers a pathway to citizenship.

    It was truly inspiring to see such a coalition of diverse local organizations unite in common purpose at the Boyle Heights LGBTQ Forum. Events such as these are a shining example of how communities across America can come together to seek solutions to the unique issues facing our youth and families.

  • Announcing Harvey Milk Champions of Change

    In August 2009, President Obama honored Harvey Milk posthumously with America’s highest civilian medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with the following citation:

    Harvey Bernard Milk dedicated his life to shattering boundaries and challenging assumptions. As one of the first openly gay elected officials in this country, he changed the landscape of opportunity for the nation's gay community. Throughout his life, he fought discrimination with visionary courage and conviction. Before his tragic death in 1978, he wisely noted, "Hope will never be silent," and called upon Americans to stay true to the guiding principles of equality and justice for all. Harvey Milk's voice will forever echo in the hearts of all those who carry forward his timeless message.

    To honor Harvey Milk’s legacy, the White House will recognize a group of outstanding openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) state and local elected and appointed officials as “Harvey Milk Champions of Change.”  Established in 2011, the White House Champions of Change Program regularly spotlights ordinary citizens who are doing extraordinary things for to their community, their country, and their fellow citizens.  In that tradition, we will honor as Harvey Milk Champions of Change a small group of LGBT state and local elected and appointed officials who have demonstrated a strong commitment to both equality and public service.

    If that sounds like you or someone you know, then we want to hear from you!

    Members of the public are invited to nominate candidates for consideration.  Nominees should be LGBT individuals who have been elected or appointed to state or local office, and who have demonstrated a strong commitment to public service.  Please keep in mind that, in the spirit of the Champions of Change program, we are looking for unsung heroes – individuals whose contributions have gone unrecognized.

    Click here to nominate a Harvey Milk Champion of Change before Friday, April 19, 2013 (Note: Under “Theme of Service” please choose “Harvey Milk Champions of Change”). 

    If you have any questions or concerns, please contact LGBT@who.eop.gov.  For the latest news on efforts by the Obama Administration on behalf of the LGBT community, please sign up for updates.

  • LGBT Families at the 2013 White House Easter Egg Roll

    Earlier this week, thousands of families gathered for the 2012 White House Easter Egg Roll.  Among them were LGBT families from across the country.  Here’s what some of them had to say:

    “What an incredible experience for our family to visit the home of the First Family and to take part in this great American tradition. It was so exciting to look around and see the diversity of American families represented. It’s a day that our kids will never forget.”

    “It was amazing and awe-inspiring to be surrounded by so many amazing families of all colors and all types – all different – but united by the belief that all families deserve equality.”

    "Being out, open, and proud on the lawn of the White House was a moment we will never forget.”

    “The experience of attending The White House Easter Egg Roll was a once in a lifetime opportunity for our grandson.  We will have lifelong conversations about America being open to all types of FAMILIES!”

    “My partner and I were honored bring our sons to The White House to take part in an iconic American family tradition.  It is a memory we will always treasure.  President Obama is a true inspiration to our boys and they were so excited have been invited to his house for this event… Needless to say, the kids had an absolute blast!  We loved seeing how much fun they had rolling eggs and playing games down the lawn.  Thank you to the Obama Administration for welcoming all families.”

    “Standing on The White House lawn to celebrate with the First Family and other families of all shapes and sizes from across the nation - two dads, two moms, a mom and a dad, one mom - helped prove the point that kids are kids, no different from each other in their quest for candy and a good time.”

    “Said the girls, ‘Best. Day. Ever!’ Their happy dads agree.”

    Check out a photo gallery of LGBT parents and their kids at the Egg Roll:

    • AMPA White House Easter Egg Roll
      1 of 21
    • Bailey Klugh Easter Egg Roll
      2 of 21
    • Blau Family at Easter Egg Roll
      3 of 21
    • Superman: Blau Family Easter Egg Roll
      4 of 21
    • Bramble Family Easter Egg Roll
      5 of 21
    • White House: Bramble Family
      6 of 21
    • Charlie Morgan Easter Egg Roll
      7 of 21
    • Family Fun: Easter Egg Roll
      8 of 21
    • Katrina Easter Egg Roll
      9 of 21
    • Latz Easter Egg Roll
      10 of 21
    • Melchert Easter Egg Roll
      11 of 21
    • Eating Apples: Melchert Easter Egg Roll
      12 of 21
    • Whole Family: Melchert Easter Egg Roll
      13 of 21
    • Cartoon: Moriel Easter Egg Roll
      14 of 21
    • Soccer Player: Moriel Easter Egg Roll
      15 of 21
    • Military Family: Easter Egg Roll
      16 of 21
    • Sherr Easter Egg Roll
      17 of 21
    • The Boys: Sherr Easter Egg Roll
      18 of 21
    • Easter Egg Roll
      19 of 21
    • Kat and Elly Easter Egg Roll
      20 of 21
    • White House Easter Egg Roll 2013
      21 of 21