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Thank You, President Obama

PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 02: Former US President Barack Obama delivers a speech during the 7th summit of "Les Napoleons" at Maison de la Radio on December 2, 2017 in Paris, France. Obama is the exceptional guest of "Les Napoleons" summit, a bi-annual symposium, created in 2015, dedicated to all the actors of innovation in communication and development around the world. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

Thank you, President Obama. Without a doubt, no president in U.S. history has advocated and pushed legislation to help the LGBT and ally community more than you. As a result of your administration’s actions, more U.S. adults self-identify as LGBT than ever in history. Young children and adults are less likely to hide their sexuality and are now more comfortable to be their true selves. To summarize your many achievements is no easy task, but these are the ones I identify as the most monumental for the LGBT and ally community.

Your willingness to sign The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act more than 11 years after they were savagely beaten speaks volumes as to how much you care about the safety of the LGBT community. This act protects our community when, historically there were no consequences. I am grateful that you expanded the 1969 United States federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The law gives the Justice Department the power to investigate crimes committed or motivated based on these attributes. I am now more confident to hold my boyfriend’s hand in public without the underlying fear of being attacked due to my display of affection.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is no more. The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” statute prohibited qualified gay and lesbian citizens from serving openly in the armed forces. The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal Act of 2010 was initiated with support from your administration. As a result, this discriminatory law was repealed and is no longer policy as of September 20, 2011. Thanks to you, our LGBT military brothers and sisters are now able to serve our country openly, without fear of being discharged due to whom they love.

The progressive executive order protecting LGBT workers from job discrimination that you signed on July 21, 2014, was a testament to your dedication to the professional success of our community. This law prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees and prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in federal employment. The order was a progressive step at the federal level to show support for the LGBT community in the work place. Many leaders in legislation and corporate America have followed from your example. Your actions reinforced the notion that discrimination against employees based on their sexuality or gender identify has no place in employment.

Thanks to you, our LGBT military brothers and sisters are now able to serve our country openly, without fear of being discharged due to whom they love.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality on June 26, 2015. Resulting from decades of activism and advocacy for equality, and thanks to you and Vice President Biden’s vocal support, the nation’s highest court found that the U.S. Constitution requires states to license and recognize marriages between two people of the same sex. At 11 a.m. on this day, you spoke to the world in support of the SCOTUS decision. Watching this speech alone in my apartment remains the most memorable and emotional moment of my life. Seeing the headline “SCOTUS Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage” as you began your speech, I remember falling to my knees sobbing with disbelief and happiness. By the end of your speech, I had somehow gathered every rainbow flag I could find and began to dance around my apartment in celebration. I had never felt more liberated in my life. I finally felt equal; I felt normal. The leader of the free world supported me. Following the announcement, in celebration of this monumental victory for the LGBT community, your administration chose to light the White House in symbolic rainbow colors.

You and your administration publicly spoke out against conversion therapy in April 2015. A few months following your vocal opposition against this barbaric treatment, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration published a report calling for an end to “conversion therapy” for minors. The fight still continues to protect our LGBT children from this destructive treatment. Cities across the country followed your example, including the city which I live, Pittsburgh. With the support of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, the City Council unanimously voted in 2016 to ban therapy that attempts to change sexual orientation or how people identify their gender.

You designated the first-ever national monument dedication to the LGBT community on June 24, 2016—the area around the Stonewall Inn in New York City—the site of the 1969 police raid which led to resistance and the first march for gay and lesbian rights in July 1969. The site that is often credited for being the location for the beginning of the LGBT rights movement. This was a monumental step in recognition of our community and will provide a continued source of hope and inspiration.

We are stronger together, and we must come together as one community to do our part and continue your legacy.

Undoubtedly associated with your actions during your time in the White House, more adults in the United States are self-identifying as LGBT than ever. The self-identifying percentage increased from 3.5% in 2012 to 4.1% in 2016. A recent Gallup Poll showed an increase of approximately 1.75 million and implies that over 10 million U.S. adults self-identify as LGBT today. I am forever grateful for your actions. I’ve never felt more safe or more proud to walk through the streets as a member of the LGBT community. As we continue to move into the uncertainty of a new presidential administration, I hope that the LGBT community remembers the progress made by the Obama Administration. I hope that we continue to advocate for equality. You have taught me that we shall not be deterred. We are stronger together, and we must come together as one community to do our part and continue your legacy.

Thank you, President Obama.

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