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10.02.2014
SAGE In the News


November 7, 2012

Leading LGBT Organizations Share Their Wish List With Obama

EDGE
By Winnie McCroy
President Barack Obama declared victory last night, winning a second Presidential term over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. And leading LGBT organizations have set their sights squarely on the future, outlining a list of goals they would like to see the President meet, from HIV funding to protection of service members and seniors, to combating homelessness and bullying.
 
"What we want is a president who recognizes our lives and families and will fight for us. President Obama has repeatedly shown he is willing to do so, and we now have another four years to keep up the momentum," said National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey.
Carey said that four years ago, when Barack Obama was first elected president, the NGLTF was optimistic that it marked the dawn of a new political era in the life of this country. The new administration promised a sea change in the national dialogue on LGBT issues, and in many ways, that’s exactly what’s happened, said Carey.
"From passage of hate crime protections and the repeal of ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ to growing support for marriage equality and implementing new policies that treat LGBT people and our families with fairness and dignity, the last four years have been filled with monumental gains," she noted.

Although the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation was cautious about endorsing a candidate, given their 501c3 non-profit status, they did share a list of priorities that encompassed the entire LGBT community.
"Our nation’s leader needs to address the fact that the latest public polling shows a majority of Americans support marriage equality as well as employment non-discrimination for LGBT people. We also need to secure open military service for transgender service members," said Vice-President of Communications Rich Ferraro, on behalf of GLAAD.
The LGBT community saw some significant gains during the Obama Administration’s first term, including the repeal of DADT, the lifting of the HIV travel ban and employment protections for federal employees prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and for the first time, gender identity.
"It’s clear from last night’s results that Americans have no desire to turn the clock back on our drive to full equality. The President knows that the repeal of ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was not the end, but just the beginning," said OutServe-SLDN Executive Director and Army veteran Allyson Robinson.
"Now is the time to step on the gas to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and ensure that all service members and their families are treated equally by our military," she said, adding, "And now is the time to say once and for all that any qualified American who wants to serve our country in uniform should not face discrimination or harassment because of sexual orientation or gender identity."
"It’s clear from last night’s results that Americans have no desire to turn the clock back on our drive to full equality. The President knows that the repeal of ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was not the end, but just the beginning," said OutServe-SLDN Executive Director and Army veteran Allyson Robinson.
"Now is the time to step on the gas to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and ensure that all service members and their families are treated equally by our military," she said, adding, "And now is the time to say once and for all that any qualified American who wants to serve our country in uniform should not face discrimination or harassment because of sexual orientation or gender identity."
The Obama Administration got tougher on bias crime, with the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the first federal law to add protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
"We need to eliminate the high rates of violence against the trans community," said Ferraro. "Issues facing LGBT youth such as bullying and high rates of homelessness also warrant increased attention from our federal government. LGBT young people should hear that they are supported and embraced for who they are and that they too can thrive in this great country."

The Obama Administration also looked out for LGBT couples’ health care rights. Nearly every hospital in the United States is now required to have a written policy that explicitly allows a patient to designate whomever they want to visit them in hospitals, including LGBT families. In the health insurance marketplaces (or "exchanges") that will be set up in 2014 under the health reform law, health insurance plans will not be allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
In addition, virtually any housing program touched by the federal government is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity due to a rule issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
At Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, the hope was that the future would include support for seniors.
"One of SAGE’s top priorities is ensuring that the Older Americans Act (OAA), which is likely to be reauthorized in 2013, includes support for LGBT older adults," said SAGE Director of Marketing and Media Relations Judy K. Evans, on behalf of the organization. "The OAA is the country’s largest vehicle for funding and delivering services to older people in the U.S., and currently bears no mention of LGBT elders and the profound challenges they face."
Evans said that this fall, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced the LGBT Elder Americans Act of 2012, which proposed several amendments to the OAA that would increase federal supports for LGBT older people, including specifying LGBT elders as a population in ’greatest social need.’
"This was a major step forward for elders in every part of the country, and if passed, would mean that LGBT people face a future that supports healthy aging for all Americans," said Evans.

Keeping their clients healthy was a priority for Dr. Marjorie J. Hill, CEO of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York. At the top of her wish list was to offer greater mobility in coverage for HIV care and treatment for outside network providers in Medicaid Special Needs Plans (SNPs) as part of Medicaid expansion in participating states.
She also stressed the importance of lifting the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs, and gaining as many supporters in Congress as possible to ensure its sustainability. GMHC also hoped to continue working with the Department of Justice to implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and improve HIV prevention and education in federal prisons.
"We need to support the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act, to end HIV criminalization and the legal sources of stigma," added Hill.
Most organizations remarked that while they saw the tremendous strides over the past four years, much remains to be done.
"The president’s re-election presents us with the opportunity to keep moving forward," Carey told EDGE. "In the next four years, we will be vigilant in pursuing policies to ensure our community continues on the path toward equality and is not left behind. We’ll be pushing for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, ensuring that transgender people can serve openly in the military, preserving a social safety net, and continued reform of the immigration and health care systems, among other issues."
Key priorities for Obama’s second term include the passage of ENDA, the repeal of DOMA, protecting funding for the Ryan White CARE Act, working against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity by government contractors and others who receive federal funding.
Many also noted that they would like to see more inclusive policies toward transgender individuals, including ensuring that they can serve openly in the military. Overall, many LGBT leaders were relieved that Obama won re-election and for other pro-gay gains at the polls, noting that they wanted to ensure that federal funds were not used to discriminate against LGBT people and their families.
"The bottom line is that America deserves nothing less than a president who will treat all families fairly -- and that’s what we have," said Carey. "We congratulate President Obama and his team. We look forward to working with them to build a stronger future for LGBT people and in creating opportunity for all."

Winnie McCroy is the National News Editor, HIV/AIDS Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes about local restaurants in her food blog, http://brooklyniscookin.blogspot.com/

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