With­out fan­fare, Obama ad­vances trans­gen­der rights

The Covington News - - THE WIRE -

SAN FRAN­CISCO (AP) — Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, who es­tab­lished his bona fides as a gay and les­bian rights cham­pion when he en­dorsed same-sex mar­riage, has steadily ex­tended his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ad­vo­cacy to the small­est and least ac­cepted band of the LGBT rain­bow: trans­gen­der Amer­i­cans.

With lit­tle of the fan­fare or crit­i­cism that marked his evo­lu­tion into the leader Newsweek nick­named “the first gay pres­i­dent,” Obama be­came the first chief ex­ec­u­tive to say “trans­gen­der” in a speech, to name trans­gen­der po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees and to pro­hibit job bias against trans­gen­der govern­ment work­ers. Also in his first term, he signed hate crime leg­is­la­tion that be­came the first federal civil rights pro­tec­tions for trans­gen­der people in U.S. his­tory.

Since then, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has qui­etly ap­plied the power of the ex­ec­u­tive branch to make it eas­ier for trans­gen­der people to up­date their pass­ports, ob­tain health in­sur­ance un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act, get treat­ment at Vet­eran’s Ad­min­is­tra­tion fa­cil­i­ties and seek ac­cess to pub­lic school re­strooms and sports pro­grams — just a few of the trans­gen­der-spe­cific pol­icy shifts of Obama’s pres­i­dency.

“He 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, said of Obama, who is the only pres­i­dent to in­vite trans­gen­der chil­dren to par­tic­i­pate in the an­nual Easter egg roll at the White House.

Re­li­gious con­ser­va­tive groups quick to crit­i­cize the pres­i­dent for his gay rights ad­vo­cacy have been much slower to re­spond to the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ac­tions. The leader of the Tra­di­tional Val­ues Coali­tion says there is lit­tle re­course be­cause the changes come through ex­ec­u­tive or­ders and federal agencies rather than Congress.

The lat­est wins came this month, when the Of­fice of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment an­nounced that govern­ment-con­tracted health in­sur­ers could start cov­er­ing the cost of gen­der re­as­sign­ment surg­eries for federal em­ploy­ees, re­tirees and their sur­vivors, end­ing a 40-year pro­hi­bi­tion. Two weeks ear­lier, a decades-old rule pre­vent­ing Medi­care from fi­nanc­ing such pro­ce­dures was over­turned within the Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices.

Un­like Obama’s sup­port for same-sex mar­riage and lift­ing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on openly gay troops, the White House’s work to pro­mote trans­gen­der rights has hap­pened mostly out of the spot­light.

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