For the first time in United States history, the President of the United States has acknowledged the importance of legal protections for transgender people during his State of the Union address to the American people. In his speech President Barack Obama stated, “As Americans, we respect human dignity… That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.”
Masen Davis, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center, commented, “President Obama’s public recognition of transgender people in his State of the Union address was historic. While it seems like a simple thing – saying the word ‘transgender’ in a speech – President Obama’s statement represents significant progress for transgender people and the movement towards equality for all.”
President Barack Obama’s mention of transgender people on Tuesday night follows several steps taken by his Administration to advance legal equality for transgender people. In July 2014 he signed an executive order extending workplace protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people working for federal contractors. Most recently, Attorney General Eric Holder announced in December that the Department of Justice will no longer argue that transgender people are not covered by Title VII, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in employment.
Transgender Law Center is grateful for all the work President Obama and his administration has done to advance transgender rights. “We look forward to the administration’s continuing partnership in the work needed to enact many more critically needed federal protections and to clarify that existing laws protect transgender people from discriminatory treatment,” said Ilona Turner, Legal Director. “Together we can continue to make real progress in this effort in the next two years.”