President Obama, on June 1, signed a proclamation, designating June as "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month," and calling on "the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists." Read full statement below.
Reaction from the gay community was swift and –thumbs down.
"A proclamation, while encouraging, is far from enough at this point," said one post, from Kansas, on a gay news website. "He gave us a month but I still don't have equal rights," said another, from Ohio. But others urged patience, noting that President Obama has been in the White House for only five months.
"I know everyone is frustrated by the perceived lack of progress," wrote a post from someone in California. "But remember where we were only 6 months ago … . We are in much better shape today."
The proclamation notes that the Obama administration has "partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives." However, it identifies only two: President Obama has appointed two dozen openly gay people to various administration posts, and, in March, he signed onto a pro-gay United Nation's statement. The statement calls for the decriminalization of homosexuality throughout the world. The administration of President Bush did not sign onto the statement, when it came up at the U.N. last December.
Elsewhere, the proclamation notes only that President Obama continues to support "enhancing hate crimes laws, supporting civil unions and Federal rights for LGBT couples, outlawing discrimination in the workplace, ensuring adoption rights, and ending the existing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and national security."
The proclamation comes at a time, however, when criticism is growing within the LGBT community that President Obama has not actively supported such measures and has been relatively silent on gay issues since taking office.
Long-time gay Democratic activist David Mixner voiced his impatience with the current White House, saying in a recent blog post that there has been "very little movement" on important LGBT issues this year. The normally cautious Lorri Jean, head of the Los Angles Gay & Lesbian Center, sent out an open letter to the president May 27, chastising him for saying nothing about the fight for equal marriage rights even when he spoke in Los Angeles two days after the recent Proposition 8 court decision.
Jean said Obama's "silence at such a time speaks volumes."
"We know the country faces many serious challenges and we have strived to be patient," said Jean in the letter. "We've waited for the slightest sign you would live up to your promise to be a 'fierce advocate' for our equal rights … ."
The "fierce advocate for gay and lesbian Americans" moniker was one Obama applied to himself last December when defending criticism of his choice of gay marriage opponent Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.
"I think it is symbolically important," said Jean of Monday's proclamation. "Words are important, but words are not enough." Jean said interprets some of the wording of the proclamation as "continuing to back off" his pledge to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy against openly gay people serving. "He said some good things about equal federal rights," she said, " … but we need more. This is not enough."
But gays weren't the only ones to criticize President Obama's proclamation recognizing the 40th anniversary of the gay civil rights event known as the Stonewall Rebellion. Readers of a OneNewsNow.com webstite of the American Family Association were harshly critical of the proclamation.
"How's that change going for all you who voted for him?" asked one of the readers, none of whom are identified at the website.
"It's pushing a homosexual life style down the throats of majority of non-homosexuals," posted another.
"This is one of the most immoral proclamations a President has ever made," said yet another.
The Obama gay pride proclamation, however, isn't the first time a president has made such a declaration –President Bill Clinton was the first and issued gay pride proclamations several times. And Obama's pride proclamation wasn't even the only proclamation he signed on June 1. He also signed one declaring June as "Great Outdoors Month," and encouraging "all Americans to spend more time outside and to participate in the nationwide events marking this occasion."
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
June 1, 2009
A PROCLAMATION BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Forty years ago, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that had become all too common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender ( LGBT ) community. Out of this resistance, the LGBT rights movement in America was born. During LGBT Pride Month, we commemorate the events of June 1969 and commit to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT Americans.
LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society. There are many well-respected LGBT leaders in all professional fields, including the arts and business communities. LGBT Americans also mobilized the Nation to respond to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic and have played a vital role in broadening this country's response to the HIV pandemic.
Due in no small part to the determination and dedication of the LGBT rights movement, more LGBT Americans are living their lives openly today than ever before. I am proud to be the first President to appoint openly LGBT candidates to Senate-confirmed positions in the first 100 days of an Administration. These individuals embody the best qualities we seek in public servants, and across my Administration -- in both the White House and the Federal agencies -- openly LGBT employees are doing their jobs with distinction and professionalism.
The LGBT rights movement has achieved great progress, but there is more work to be done. LGBT youth should feel safe to learn without the fear of harassment, and LGBT families and seniors should be allowed to live their lives with dignity and respect.
My Administration has partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives. At the international level, I have joined efforts at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. Here at home, I continue to support measures to bring the full spectrum of equal rights to LGBT Americans. These measures include enhancing hate crimes laws, supporting civil unions and Federal rights for LGBT couples, outlawing discrimination in the workplace, ensuring adoption rights, and ending the existing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security. We must also commit ourselves to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic by both reducing the number of HIV infections and providing care and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS across the United States.
These issues affect not only the LGBT community, but also our entire Nation. As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit. During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.