President Biden officially recognized Pride Month in a proclamation titled: “FACT SHEET: The Biden-Harris Administration Champions LGBTQ+ Equality and Marks Pride Month”. It was issued on June 1, 2021.
There have been reports that Biden is the first President of the United States to recognize Pride Month, but that’s not accurate. Two of the previous presidents have also officially recognized Pride Month.
The proclamation begins with a few paragraphs in which President Biden officially recognizes Pride Month. After that is a list of accomplishments that the Biden-Harris administration want people to know about. Each one was intended to support people who are LGBTQ+.
The first paragraph from the proclamation is long, so I’m breaking it up into two paragraphs:
Today, President Biden issued a proclamation affirming June 2021 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) Pride Month, marking a time of hope, progress, and promise for LGBTQ+ Americans across the country. After four years of relentless attacks on LGBTQ+ rights, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken historic actions to accelerate the march toward full LGBTQ+ equality.
From protecting the civil rights of every LGBTQ+ Americans – to serve their country in uniform, ensuring that LGBTQ+ Americans are leaders at every level of the federal government, to protecting and defending the human rights of LGBTQ+ persons around the world, the Biden-Harris Administration is a consistent and reliable partner in the fight for equality at home and abroad…
Examples of How the Trump-Pence Administration Treated LGBTQ+ People
The “four years of relentless attacks on LGBTQ+ Americans” is a reference to the horrible things that former President Trump inflicted upon people who are LGBTQ+. Here are a few examples of what the Trump administration did:
GLAAD reported on January 20, 2017, that minutes after Trump was sworn into office, any mention of the LGBTQ community was erased from the White House, Department of State, and Department of Labor.
On January 24, 2017, NBC News posted an article that showed a screenshot of the U.S. Department of State website which said: “We’re sorry, that page can’t be found”. The reporter was looking for (then) Secretary of State John Kerry’s formal apology from the U.S. Department of State’s “Lavender Scare”. NBC News described it as “an internal witch hunt that cost at least 1,000 people in their State Department jobs for alleged homosexuality during the 1950s and 1960s.”
Fortunately, the U.S. Department of State archived (then) Secretary of State John Kerry’s apology:
Apology for Past Discrimination toward Employees and Applicants based on Sexual Orientation
Throughout my career, including as Secretary of State, I have stood strongly in support of the LGBTI community, recognizing that respect for human rights must include respect for all individuals. LGBTI employees serve as proud members of the State Department and valued colleagues dedicated to the service of our country. For the past several years, the Department has pressed for the families of LGBTI officers to have the same protections overseas as families of other officers. In 2015, to further promote LGBTI rights throughout the world, I appointed the first ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons.
In the past – as far back as the 1940s, but continuing for decades – the Department of State was among many public and private employers that discriminated against employees and job applicants on the basis of perceived sexual orientation forcing some employees to resign or refusing to hire certain applicants in the first place. These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today.
On behalf of the Department, I apologize to those who were impacted by the practices of the past and reaffirm the Department’s steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBTI community.
In February of 2017, (then) President Trump and Attorney General Sessions rescinded Title IX protections for transgender students in schools. Doing so allowed schools to prevent transgender students from using the restroom that corresponds to their gender.
In March of 2017, (then) Health and Humans Services Secretary Tom Price eliminated questions about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from two critical surveys. The National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants survey determines who receives select services under the Older Americans Act. Secretary Price omitted the question about sexual orientation and gender identity – leaving them vulnerable to food insecurity and other critical supports.
The Trump administration also removed questions about sexual orientation and gender identity from the Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living. The purpose of the report was to help seniors who are disabled to live independently. Removing the questions that focus on seniors who are LGBT means they would no longer be eligible for the services they need.
On March 28, 2017, Out reported that the U.S. Census admitted that it had “inadvertently” included “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” in a long-awaited report outlining new categories for the survey. Out posted a quote from GLAAD’s CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis, who branded the move as a “systemic effort on behalf of the Trump administration to erase LGBT people.”
On May 4, 2017, (then) President Trump signed a “religious liberty” executive order. NBC News reported that the executive order was titled: “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty”. It gave “regulatory relief” to companies that object to an Obamacare mandate for contraception in health care. This executive order was the start of a slippery slope to attempt to take bodily autonomy away from people who have a uterus (including trans men) and who work for religious companies.
On June 1, 2017, Washington Blade reported that (then) President Trump declined to issue a presidential proclamation designating June as LGBTQ Pride Month.
On June 15, 2017, ProPublica reported that the U.S. Department of Justice rolled back civil rights for students who are LGBT. Doing so would leave those students open to discrimination and violence from their peers and teachers.
On June 16, 2017, The Washington Post reported that they obtained an internal memo from the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. It revealed guidelines to dismiss complaints about bathroom access filed by transgender students.
On June 26, 2017, The Washington Post reported that (then) President Trump announced he would ban transgender service members from serving “in any capacity” in the U.S. military, threatening to fire 15,000 currently serving troops.
Also on June 26, 2017, the Justice Department filed a brief opposing workplace nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ community under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the case Zarda v. Altitude Express.
On August 25, 2017, (then) President Trump posted a Presidential Memorandum that prohibited transgender individuals from openly serving in the military. The Memorandum also required the Department of Defense to halt resources to fund sex reassignment surgery to military personnel.
Also on August 25, 2017, BuzzFeed News reported that (then) President Trump ordered an end to open transgender military service – which would take effect on March 23, 2018.
On September 7, 2017, the Justice Department filed an amicus brief in support of “religious exemptions” to discriminate against LGBTQ customers. The case was titled: Masterpiece Cakeshop, LTD., Et.Al., vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Et. Al.
On September 22, 2017, Politico reported that The Department of Education’s Secretary Betsy DeVos announced she was rescinding Obama-era guidance on campus sexual assault, effective immediately. The Atlantic reported that same day that a survey stated that LGBT and non-heterosexual students last school year experienced significantly higher rates of sexual assault and harassment, as well as violence from an intimate partner, than their heterosexual peers.
On October 13, 2017, (then) Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price erased all mentions of the LGBTQ and their health needs in its Strategic Plan for 2018-2022.
On October 5, 2017, BuzzFeed News reported that (then) U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed a federal government policy that said transgender workers were protected from discrimination under a 1964 civil rights law. The directive said: “Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.”
On October 6, 2017, Rewire News Group reported that the Department of Health and Human Services undermined the Affordable Care Act (ACA) birth control benefit, which widely guaranteed health insurance coverage of contraception without a co-pay. GLAAD reported the effect of this change allowed the use of “religious exemptions” to deny health care to women, trans men and gender non-conforming people who rely on the no-copay contraception benefit.
Also on October 6, 2017, Washington Blade reported that (then) Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued broad guidance allowing individuals and businesses to act in the name of religious freedom – often used an exercise for anti-LGBT discrimination – without fear of government reprisal. The memo allows individuals to act or abstain from action according to their religious beliefs and prohibits the government from targeting religious individuals and organizations for acting on those beliefs.
On October 11, 2021, CBS New York reported that The National Park Service suddenly withdrew their sponsorship of New York City’s first permanent Pride Flag, which now flies near the historic Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The flag was dedicated at the Stonewall National Monument on Christopher Street during a ceremony Wednesday, which marks National Coming Out Day and the anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington for Gay Rights.
On December 1, 2017, Refinery29 reported that (then) President Trump issued a proclamation commemorating World AIDS Day. His statement completely ignored LGBTQ+ people – a community that is disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS.
On December 22, 2017, The Washington Post reported that staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were instructed not to use the words “transgender”, “vulnerable”, “entitlement”, “diversity”, “fetus”, “evidence-based” and “science-based” in official budget documents.
On December 29, 2017, Axios reported that (then) President Trump fired the last 16 members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. Six other members had resigned in June of 2017. The result was that (then) President Trump no longer had a Presidential Advisory Counsel on HIV/AIDS.
And that’s just the first year of the Trump-Pence administration!
Let’s return to President Biden’s Pride Month 2021 proclamation:
…Too many LGBTQ+ Americans across our nation continue facing discrimination and hate, especially LGBTQ+ people of color and transgender Americans, and some states are attempting to roll back the clock on equality with discriminatory bills that target LGBTQ+ people and families. The Biden-Harris Administration reaffirms that no one should face discrimination or harassment because of who they are or whom they love. As President Biden said during his first joint address to Congress, the President has the back of the LGBTQ+ people across the country and will continue fighting for full equality for every American – including through continuing to urge the U.S. Senate to pass the Equality Act and provide overdue civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ people and families across the country.
This Pride Month, the Biden-Harris Administration celebrates the historic progress made towards LGBTQ+ equality since President Biden took office…
What follows is a list of things that the Biden-Harris Administration has done (so far) in an effort to provide equality to the LGBTQ+ community. Before I dig into that, I want to take a moment to explain what the Equality Act is – and why the Senate is holding back on giving it a vote.
What is the Equality Act?
H.R.5 – The Equality Act – was passed by the United States House of Representatives on May 17, 2019. This took place during the 116th Congress. It was during the Trump-Pence Administration.
The sponsor of the bill was Representative David Cicilline (Democrat – Rhode Island). According to his official website, Representative Cicilline serves as Chairman of the House Antitrust Subcommittee, Chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, and Vice Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Advocate reported that he was the first openly gay mayor of a state capital (Providence, Rhode Island).
Here is a summary of The Equality Act:
This bill prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in a wide variety of areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system. Specifically, the bill defines and includes sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation.
The bill expands the definition of public accommodations to include places or establishments that provide (1) exhibitions, recreation, exercise, amusement, gatherings, or displays; (2) goods, services, or programs; and (3) transportation services.
The bill allows the Department of Justice to intervene in equal protection actions in federal court on account of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Protections against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin shall include protections based on discrimination based on (1) an association with another person who is a member of such a protected class; or (2) a perception or belief, even if inaccurate, that an individual is a member of such a protected class. The bill prohibits the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 from providing a claim, defense, or basis for challenging such protections.
The bill prohibits an individual from being denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.
H.R. 5 passed the U.S. House of Representatives on May 17, 2019. The vote was 236 AYE to 173 NOE. 23 Representatives did not cast a vote. No one voted “present”.
When you break it down by party, the vote looks like this:
- Democratic: 228 AYES – 0 NOE – 0 Present – 7 Not Voting
- Republican: 8 AYES – 173 NOE – 0 Present – 16 Not Voting
- Independent: 0 AYES – 0 NOE – 0 Present – 0 Not Voting
- Total: 236 AYES – 173 NOE – 0 Present – 23 Not Voting
Bills that pass the U.S. House of Representatives go to the U.S. Senate. The Senate will change the number, but keep the name. There could be some changes made by the Senate. If that happens (and the bill passes the Senate), it goes back to the House so the Representatives can vote on those changes.
The U.S. Senate received H.R. 5 The Equality Act on May 20, 2019. It was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. No further action was taken on The Equality Act of 2019.
On February 18, 2021, H.R. 5 The Equality Act was re-introduced by the U.S. House of Representatives of the 117th Congress. Once again, it was sponsored by Representative David Cicilline (Democrat – Rhode Island). The summary of this bill on February 18, 2021, was:
This bill prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit and the jury system. Specifically, the bill defines and includes sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation.
The bill expands the definition of public accommodations to include places or establishments that provide (1) exhibitions, recreation, exercise, gatherings, or displays; (2) goods, services, or programs; and (3) transportation services.
The bill prohibits an individual from being denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.
There were two roll call votes in the U.S. House of Representatives. The first was taken at 4:27 PM on February 25, 2021. The result of the first vote was 224 YEAS to 206 Nays. No one voted Present. Four Representatives did not vote.
When you break it down by party, it looks like this:
- Democratic: 221 YEAS – 0 NAYS – 0 Present – 0 Not Voting
- Republican: 3 YEAS – 206 NAYS – 0 Present – 2 Not Voting
- Independent: 0 YEAS – 0 NAYS – 0 Present – 0 Not Voting
- Total: 224 YEAS – 206 NAYS – 0 Present – 2 Not Voting
H.R 5 The Equality Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives once again, on February 25, 2021.
The Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives attempted to “table” H.R. 5 The Equality Act. To “table” a bill means that a group of politicians desperately wants to make a bill that they don’t like disappear.
A second vote was held at 5:18 PM on February 25, 2021. The second vote was 211 YEAS to 195 NAYS. H.R. 5 The Equality Act passed again!
When you break it down by party, it looks like this:
- Democratic: 211 YEAS – 0 NAYS – 0 Present – 9 Not Voting
- Republican: 0 YEAS – 0 195 NAYS – 0 Present – 16 Not Voting
- Independent: 0 YEAS – 0 NAYS – 0 Present – 0 Not Voting
- Total: 221 YEAS – 195 Nays – 0 Present – 25 Not Voting
On June 10, 2021, CBS News posted an article titled: “Senate could expand LGBTQ protections with Equality Act”. It was written by Grace Segers. From the article:
…Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced last month that the Senate could take up The Equality Act, which would enshrine legal protections for LGBTQ Americans, in June. Still, it’s not yet clear whether the Senate will actually consider the House-passed bill during Pride Month.
Twenty-nine states do not have laws that explicitly shield LGBTQ Americans from discrimination, resulting in a patchwork of protections that vary from state to state. The Equality Act would extend protections to cover federally funded programs, employment, housing, loan applications, education, and public accommodations…
…Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the protections guaranteed by the 1964 Civil Rights Act on the basis of sex extended to discrimination against LGBTQ Americans. The Equality Act would explicitly set those protections for people based on orientation and gender identity, as opposed to having those safeguards included under the umbrella term of “sex”…
…Most legislation requires 60 votes to advance in the Senate, and Democrats have a narrow majority in the 50-50 Senate. They need the support of at least 10 Republicans to pass most of their priorities, including the Equality Act…
…The Equality Act would amend language in the Civil Rights Act to prevent discrimination under federally funded programs on the basis of sex or sexual orientation. But this would affect certain faith-based organizations that receive federal funding, such as Catholic Charities, which has in the past refused its adoption services to same-sex couples. However, if the bill is changed in response to these concerns, it runs the risk of legitimizing exemptions it was written to address…
…But the protections offered by the Equality Act are broadly popular among Americans. A recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 76% of Americans support protections for LGBTQ Americans from discrimination in jobs, housing, and public accommodation. Although support is strong among Democrats and Independents, the poll found that a majority of Republicans, 62%, also support anti-discrimination laws…
What is Pride Month?
Pride Month takes place in June every year. Many people view it as a celebration – and that’s a valid way to look at it. Every June, large corporations and brands “celebrate” Pride Month with rainbow colored products and posts on social media. Personally, I find most of that to be questionable, especially if the brand or company ignores LGBTQ+ people during the rest of the year.
News organizations also tend to emphasize the “Party” part of Pride Month – and that is also correct. They tend to leave out the part about Pride also being a protest – which is also a valid way to view Pride Month.
People posted an article on June 1, 2021, titled: “Everything You Need to Know About Pride Month”. The article may be useful to people who recently realized that they are part of the LGBTQ+ but don’t know the history of Pride. I think the article is also good for parents of kids who are part of the LGBTQ+.
The Biden-Harris executive order clearly emphasizes the “hope, promise, and progress” of LGBTQ+ Americans during this year’s Pride Month. It does not mention anything about Pride Month also being a protest.
Here are a few key points from the article:
Pride Month is an entire month dedicated to the uplifting of LGBTQ voices, celebration of LGBTQ culture, and the support of LGBTQ rights. Throughout the month of June, nationwide, there have traditionally been parades, protests, drag performances, live theater and memorials and celebrations of life for members of the community who lost their lives to HIV/AIDS. It is part political activism, and part celebration of all the LGBTQ community has achieved over the years…
The article points out that the symbol of Pride is the rainbow flag, which was created by artist Gilbert Baker in 1978. There is a lot of information on the Gilbert Baker Foundation website about the rainbow flag. The original 8 color flag gave meanings to each color: pink (sex), red (life), orange (healing), yellow (sunlight), green (nature), turquoise (magic), blue (serenity) purple (spirit).
The hot pink stripe was dropped because of the unavailability of hot pink fabric. In 1979, the rainbow flag was modified again and the turquoise stripe was removed because when the flag was hung vertically in San Francisco’s Market Street, the center stripe was obscured by the post itself.
People reported that in 2021 the rainbow flag was altered in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests, including black to represent diversity and brown to represent inclusion. The colors light blue, pink, and white (the colors of the trans Pride flag) were added.
…We celebrate in June to coincide with the catalyst of the Gay Liberation Movement that was the Stonewall Uprising. In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police raided a gay bar in N.Y.C’s West Village, The Stonewall Inn. This was commonplace for the time, but on this particular evening, the patrons of the bar fought back, starting the Stonewall Riots, which went on for days…
On June 24, 2016, (then) President Barack Obama designated Stonewall National Monument to honor the broad LGBT equality movement. As you may recall, President Biden was (then) President Obama’s Vice-President. Here is a quote from (then) President Barack Obama at the time of the designation:
I’m designating the Stonewall National Monument as the newest addition to America’s National Park System. Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights. I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country, the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us. That we are stronger together. That out of many, we are one.
Things the Biden-Harris Administration have done to support LGBTQ+ Americans
On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order titled: “Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation”. In short, the purpose of this executive order is to ensure that people who are LGBTQ+ do not face discrimination based on who they love or who they are.
On February 11, 2021, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it will administer and enforce the Fair Housing Act to prevent discrimination in housing and rental assistance against LGBTQ+ people.
On February 24, 2021, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs undertook an agency-wide review of its policies and practices to remove barriers that transgender veterans and their families face.
On March 9, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced that it will enforce against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in credit and lending services. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a U.S. government agency that makes sure banks, lenders, and other financial companies treat people fairly.
On March 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice issued new guidance to agencies declaring that Title IX sex discrimination protection includes protection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
On March 31, 2021, the U.S. Department of Defense issued a policy update that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity or an individual’s identification as transgender, provides a means by which to access the military in one’s self-identified gender provided all appropriate standards are met, provides a path for those in service for medical treatment, gender transition, and recognition in one’s self-identified gender, and seeks to protect the privacy of all Service members to treat all Service members with dignity and respect.
On April 22, 2021, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) restored protections for transgender individuals seeking emergency shelter and homeless services. HUD reaffirmed its commitment that no person be denied access to housing or other critical services because of their gender.
On May 10, 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it will interpret and enforce Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act and Title IX to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Biden-Harris executive order also stated:
…To advance protections for incarcerated individuals who are transgender, the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in litigation clarifying that it is DOJ’s position that transgender prisoners should be assigned to housing that aligns with their gender identity, and that transgender prisoners should receive medically-necessary gender affirming care…
There is also a list of relevant executive orders signed by President Biden:
On January 20, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order titled: “Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government”. It establishes a cross-government initiative to advance equity and justice for communities that have been left behind, underserved, or discriminated against by federal policies, laws, and programs, including LGBTQ+ communities.
On January 25, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order titled: “Fact Sheet: President Biden Signs Executive Order Enabling All Qualified Americans to Serve Their Country in Uniform”. It reverses the ban put in place by the Trump-Pence Administration on openly transgender servicemembers serving in the Armed Forces, enabling all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform.
On March 8, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order titled: “Executive Order on Establishment of the White House Gender Policy Council”. This Council will advance gender equity and equality across the whole of the government, including by addressing barriers faced by LGBTQ+ people, in particular transgender women and girls, across the country.
Personally, I would feel better if the executive order also included an emphasis on the same protections for transgender men and non-binary people. I guess this is a start.
Also on March 8, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order titled: “Executive Order Guaranteeing an Educational Environment Free from Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Including Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity”. This executive order recommits the Federal Government to guarantee educational environments are free from sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It also requires the Department of Education to review and revise agency actions that are inconsistent with this policy.
On March 31, 2021, President Biden issued a proclamation commemorating Transgender Day of Visibility. He was the first President of the United States to do so.
President Biden was not the first U.S. President to Recognize Pride Month
According to Snopes, former U.S. President Bill Clinton (Democrat) was the first president to issue a proclamation for Pride Month. The proclamation was titled: “Proclamation 7203 – Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, 1999“. It was issued on June 11, 1999. From the proclamation:
Thirty years ago this month, at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, a courageous group of citizens resisted harassment and mistreatment, setting in motion a chain of events that would become known as the Stonewall Uprising and the birth of the modern gay and lesbian civil rights movement. Gays and lesbians, their families and friends, celebrate the anniversary of Stonewall every June in America as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month; and earlier this month, the National Park Service added the Stonewall Inn, as well as the nearby park and neighborhood streets surrounding it, to the National Register of Historic Places.
I am proud of the measures my Administration has taken to end discrimination against gays and lesbians and ensure that they have the same rights guaranteed to their fellow Americans. Last year, I signed an Executive order that amends Federal equal employment policy to prohibit discrimination in the Federal civilian work force based on sexual orientation. We have also banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in the granting of security clearances. As a result of these and other policies, gay and lesbian Americans serve openly and proudly throughout the Federal Government. My Administration is also working with congressional leaders to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit most private employers from firing workers solely because of their sexual orientation…
Britannica reported that President Bill Clinton signed a law that consisted of statute, regulations, and policy memorandum directing military personnel “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue, and don’t harass.” It became known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. It went into effect on October 1, 1993.
According to Britannica, the policy “theoretically lifted a ban on homosexual service that had been instituted during World War II, though in effect it continued a statutory ban.” “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was still in effect when President Clinton signed Proclamation 7203 – Gay and Lesbian Pride Month 1999.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was another terrible law that President Bill Clinton signed. Britannica reported that it was enforced from 1993 to 2013. The law specifically denied same-sex couples all benefits and recognition given to opposite-sex couples.
This included more than 1,000 federal protections and privileges, such as the legal recognition of relationships, access to a partner’s employment benefits, rights of inheritance, joint tax returns and tax exemptions, immigration or residency for noncitizen partners, next-of-kin status, protection from domestic violence, and the right to live together in military or college housing. DOMA also mandated that states banning same-sex marriage were not required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. It also specified that, for the purposes of federal law, marriage could only occur between a man and a woman.
Put DOMA and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” together, and it leads me to believe that President Clinton really didn’t care very much for people who were gay or lesbian or transgender. In my opinion, his recognition of Pride Month feels disingenuous.
On May 31, 2016, President Barack Obama (Democrat) posted a Presidential Proclamation titled: “LGBT Pride Month 2016”. He was the second U.S. President to recognize Pride Month. From the proclamation:
Since our Founding, America has advanced on an unending path toward becoming a more perfect Union. This journey, led by forward-thinking individuals who have set their sights on a brighter tomorrow, has never been easy or smooth. The fight for dignity and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is reflected in the tireless dedication of advocates and allies who strive to forge a more inclusive society. They have spurred sweeping progress by changing hearts and minds and demanding equal treatment — under our laws, from our courts, and in our policies. This month, we recognize all that we have done to bring us to this point, and we recommit to bending the arc of our Nation toward justice.
Last year’s landmark Supreme Court decision guaranteeing marriage equality in all 50 States was a historic victory for LGBT Americans, ensuring dignity for same-sex couples and greater equality across State lines. For every partnership that was not previously recognized under the law and for every American who was denied their basic civil rights, this monumental ruling instilled newfound hope, affirming the belief that we are all more free when we are treated as equals.
LGBT individuals deserve to know their country stands beside them. That is why my Administration is striving to better understand the needs of LGBT adults and to provide affordable, welcoming, and supportive housing to aging LGBT Americans. It is also why we oppose subjecting minors to the harmful practice of conversion therapy, and why we are continuing to promote equality and foster safe and supportive learning environments for all students. We remain committed to addressing health disparities in the LGBT community — gay and bisexual men and transgender women of color are at a particularly high risk for HIV, and we have worked to strengthen our National HIV/AIDS Strategy to reduce new infections, increase access to care, and improve health outcomes for people living with HIV…
The landmark Supreme Court ruling that (then) President Obama mentioned was on a case called Windsor v. United States. It was decided by the Supreme Court of the United States on June 26, 2013.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) provided information about the case. Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer were Americans who got married in Canada in May of 2007. Two years later, Thea passed away. When Thea died, the U.S. federal government refused to recognize Edie and Thea’s marriage and taxed Edie’s inheritance from Thea as though they were strangers. The ACLU noted that under federal law, a spouse who dies can leave their assets, including the family home, to the other spouse without incurring estate taxes.
In short, Edie Windsor was discriminated against because she was in a same-sex marriage. The state of New York recognized Edie and Thea’s marriage. But because of DOMA, the federal government chose not to recognize it. Edie Windsor sued the federal government, challenging the constitutionality of DOMA and seeking a refund of the estate tax she was forced to pay.
On December 7, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Edie Windsor’s case. The oral arguments took place on March 27, 2013. On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that section three of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) was unconstitutional and that the federal government cannot discriminate against married lesbian and gay couples for the purpose of determining federal benefits and protections. Edie Windsor won her case.
Put together the Proclamation from (then) President Barack Obama, and his mention of Edie Windsor’s case, and add that to his decision to dedicate the Stonewall National Monument in 2016. To me, it feels like (then) President Obama genuinely believed that people who are LGBT should be protected from discrimination.