- Views & Opinions
President Barack Obama’s unprecedented use of “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual” and “transgender” in his public statements is “contributing immensely to the political mainstreaming of LGBT people and marriage equality within American society,” according to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign.
HRC is the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group.
It’s report, released this week, also examines the public statements of former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.
The researchers found that Obama has used the word “gay” more than any of his predecessors — 272 times in five years. The report shows that during Obama’s time in office, support for marriage equality has exploded, from 40 percent in 2008 to 53 percent in 2013.
“Words matter an enormous amount, and when President Obama uses his platform to declare that LGBT people are just as American as anyone else, it has a huge and historic effect. President Obama has helped the American people get to know LGBT people on a personal level, and evidence suggests that when people know us, they don’t want to discriminate against us,” stated HRC president Chad Griffin. “President Obama has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of LGBT people, and the power of his rhetoric has been an essential part of that legacy.”
HRC reported that:
• Throughout his time in the White House, Obama has said the word “gay” in a public speech, statement or proclamation at least 272 times.
• Obama has used the word “transgender” at least 33 times in speeches, statements and proclamations. He’s used the word “bisexual” at least 28 times, and “lesbian” at least 88 times.
• On the 2012 campaign trail, Obama used the word “gay” 62 times at rallies and fundraisers.
• On the 2012 campaign trail, Mitt Romney spoke about marriage equality only once, and it was in the context of excluding loving, committed same-sex couples from marriage.
• In his two terms in the White House, Clinton used the word “gay” 216 times in public speeches, statements or proclamations, of which 46 instances were regarding gays in the military and 80 instances were regarding Matthew Shepard or hate crime legislation.
• Obama has consistently emphasized that rights and the pursuit of success should not be denied to anyone based on whom they love.
• Since Obama has been in office, the percentage of Americans who support marriage equality has risen from 40 percent in 2008 to 53 percent in 2013, according to Gallup polling.
• Following Obama’s 2012 endorsement of same-sex marriage, the number of African-Americans who supported marriage equality skyrocketed to 59 percent, up from an average of 41 percent, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
• The rising tide of public support for marriage equality has been reflected in opinion shifts by prominent GOP lawmakers as well. Republican Sens. Rob Portman, Mark Kirk and Lisa Murkowski have all endorsed marriage equality. And in February 2013, more than 150 Republicans signed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit striking down Proposition 8.
“When an elected official uses his or her platform to send a message of dignity and respect, Americans respond,” Griffin stated. “We hope that the growing momentum for equality will ensure future presidents – regardless of their party affiliation – continue this trend.”
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