President Barack Obama has been affectionately referred to as the “first gay president,” due to historical LGBT rights achievements during his tenure in the White House, and a new OUT magazine cover story seeks to solidify his image as a champion of equality.
Obama, who is the first sitting president to be photographed for the cover of an LGBT publication, appears on the special OUT 100 issue with the caption: “Our president: Ally. Hero. Icon.”
In addition to gracing the magazine’s cover, Obama participates in a Q&A with OUT, during which he describes what may have been his first encounter with an openly gay person and how his daughters Sasha and Malia represent a new generation that has no tolerance for intolerance.
“To Malia and Sasha and their friends, discrimination in any form against anyone doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t dawn on them that friends who are gay or friends’ parents who are same-sex couples should be treated differently than anyone else. That’s powerful,” Obama said.
In the interview, Obama also speaks of how he witnessed the impact of HIV/AIDS on the gay community while working as a community organizer in Chicago in the 1980s and why he made a point of linking the birth of the modern gay rights movement at Stonewall to other historic American progressive protest movements.
Obama said he wasn’t surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision to make marriage equality the law of the land earlier this year, one of the seminal moments of his presidency. “There had been a remarkable attitude shift — in hearts and minds — across America. The ruling reflected that. It reflected our values as a nation founded on the principle that we are all created equal,” he told OUT.
Despite the high-profile successes on his watch, such as repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the passage of federal hate crime legislation, there are still several gay rights priorities that remain unresolved – including efforts to fight housing and employment discrimination. And internationally, LGBT people face an extremely uphill battle, something Obama acknowledges in his sit-down with the magazine.
“When we talk about LGBT issues, we emphasize the importance of universal human rights — the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and the importance of non-violence, non-discrimination and equality under the law — and those don’t change or go away just because someone is a member of the LGBT community. So, while some people try to claim that homosexuality doesn’t exist in their culture or that we are trying to impose “foreign” values, the truth is that LGBT people are members of all societies and the protection of human rights is a universal value,” said Obama.
“How we deliver that message may change from country to country. Sometimes I do so in public speeches. Other times, we may do so in private, during meetings with foreign governments. Yes, it can make for some difficult conversations, but the United States will continue to raise our voice on behalf of universal human rights.”