Ending discrimination against gays and lesbians

Gays and lesbians are still struggling for acceptance and equal rights in the United States, and President Obama has told them “I’m here with you in that fight.”

The president spoke to 3000 people at a black-tie dinner of the Human Rights Campaign in Washington October 10, and said he would end the U.S. military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, which has allowed gays to serve their country only if they can keep their sexual orientation secret. He also said he expects Congress to pass legislation extending the definition of a hate crime to include violence based on sexual orientation so he can sign it into law. Members of Congress are also working to pass an employee non-discrimination bill that would prohibit a worker from being fired simply for being gay.

Obama compared the struggle for gay rights to the African-American Civil Rights movement, and said “we cannot — and we will not — put aside issues of basic equality,” despite the many other urgent challenges facing today’s United States.

“My expectation is that when you look back on these years, you will see a time in which we put a stop to discrimination against gays and lesbians,” Obama said. “You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman.”

What is the status of gays and lesbians in your country? Is sexual orientation an issue of public debate, a non-issue, or something that cannot be freely discussed?

President extends benefits to same-sex partners of federal government employees

President Obama signed a memorandum June 17 that will extend some benefits to same-sex partners of federal government employees. “Today I’m proud to issue a presidential memorandum that paves the way for long-overdue progress in our nation’s pursuit of equality,” Obama said.

The memorandum enables same-sex partners to have access to long-term care insurance. It also grants employees permission to take sick leave for the care of domestic partners and non-biological children.

The president acknowledged that he would like to extend more benefits. “Under current law, we cannot provide same-sex couples with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples,” Obama said, noting that he supports legislation that would grant more benefits to same-sex partners.

“We’ve got more work to do to ensure that government treats all its citizens equally; to fight injustice and intolerance in all its forms; and to bring about that more perfect union,” Obama said. “I’m committed to these efforts.”

Want to discuss this topic more? Co.NX is hosting a webchat about gays and lesbians in the United States, June 25 at 9:00 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT.) Join in!