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Obama reflects on LGBT progress in ‘Time’ magazine interview

Says 'incredibly rapid transformation' has taken place on LGBT issues
CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Friday, December 21, 2012
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In an interview with Time magazine, which named him “Person of the Year,” President Obama said an “incredibly rapid transformation” has taken place during the course of his administration on LGBT issues — claiming his leadership played a role in moving them forward.

Speaking to reporters from Time, Obama noted the change in the way LGBT issues are perceived is in a large part “generational.”

TIME magazine cover, Dec. 31, 2012.

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“One of the things that I’m very proud of during my first four years is I think I’ve helped to solidify this incredibly rapid transformation in people’s attitudes around LGBT issues — how we think about gays and lesbians and transgender persons,” Obama was quoted as saying. “A lot of that just has to do with the fact that if you talk to Malia, the idea of making an anti-gay remark at her school is just unimaginable. They just don’t get that.”

Under his administration, President Obama has repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and signed into law hate crimes protection legislation. He’s also the first sitting U.S. president to endorse marriage equality. Still, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act continues to languish in Congress and the Defense of Marriage Act is still on the books.

Obama also spoke about LGBT issues in the context of the nation embracing its diversity, saying the eight years of his presidency “helps to validate or solidify that transformation.”

“For all the divisions that you read about in our politics — and many of them are real and powerful — the truth is, is that we have steadily become a more diverse and tolerant country that embraces people’s differences, and respects people who are not like us,” Obama was quoted as saying. “And that’s a profoundly good thing. That’s one of the strengths of America. It was hard-fought. And there’s been the occasional backlash, and this is not to argue that somehow racism or sexism or homophobia are going to be eliminated or ever will be eliminated. It is to argue that our norms have changed in a way that prizes inclusion more than exclusion.”

Obama reportedly added, “And I do think that my eight years as president, reflecting those values and giving voice to those values, helps to validate or solidify that transformation, and I think that’s a good thing for the country.”

In a response to a follow-up question on whether his administration would join the marriage cases pending before the Supreme Court, Obama said his administration is looking at both of them. Obama said his administration would continue to push to end DOMA, but he had no further comment on the case involving Proposition 8.

“We are looking at the cases right now. I’ve already been very clear about DOMA, so there is no doubt that we would continue the position we’re on, that DOMA is unconstitutional and should be struck down,” Obama was quoted as saying. “And I think the Prop-8 case, because the briefs are still being written, I should probably be careful about making any specific comments on it.”

Months after Obama announced his personal support for same-sex marriage, his administration is facing new calls to assert a constitutional right to same-sex marriage by issuing a friend-of-the-court brief in the Prop 8 case. Ted Olson, co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the case, said he believes participation from the Obama administration would have “great effect” on the results of the case.

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