LEGAL DOCKET: Obama’s Stunning Record on Transgender Rights
The Associated Press has a good piece looking at Barack Obama’s unprecedented — and surprisingly wholehearted — support of transgender rights. As reporter Lisa Leff points out, Obama is the first president to:
- say “transgender” in a speech
- name transgender political appointees
- prohibit job bias against transgender government workers
- invite transgender children to participate in the annual Easter egg roll at the White House
The Obama administration has made it easier for transgender people to:
- seek access to public school restrooms and sports programs (under Title IX, the 1972 law that bans gender discrimination in education)
- obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (by applying the non-discrimination provision of the ACA to investigate federally funded health plans and care providers discriminate on the basis of gender and gender identity).
- receive treatment at Veteran’s Administration facilities
- obtain sex-reassignment surgery under federal government–contracted health plans and Medicare
- update their passports
Meanwhile, in his first term, Obama signed the first federal civil rights protections for transgender people in U.S. history (in the form of the Matthew Shepard Act, a bill banning hate crimes).
"[Obama] has been the best president for transgender rights, and nobody else is in second place," Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Even more remarkable is how little fanfare (and push back) these advances have drawn. In some cases — for example, Obama’s recently announced plans to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity — policies haven’t been singled out as trans-friendly because they benefit the entire LGBT community. But as Leff notes, the muted roll-outs also reflect a concerted strategy.
[T]ransgender rights groups and the administration have agreed on a low-key approach, both to skirt resistance and to send the message that changes are not a big deal, said Barbra Siperstein, who in 2009 became the first transgender person elected to the Democratic National Committee.
"It’s quiet by design, because the louder you are in Washington, the more the drama," said Siperstein, who helped organize the first meeting between White House aides and transgender rights advocates without the participation of gay rights leaders.
Meanwhile, religious conservatives have been powerless to stop the changes because they result from executive orders rather than legislation. But the Traditional Values Coalition’s Andrea Lafferty suggests that opponents of transgender rights will make their voices heard in the midterm elections.
"There are other people who are concerned about these things, definitely. I think America is just overwhelmed right now…. Everybody is going to have to take a step back, and that step back is going to be this November."
(Image via ABC News)