16 Inspirational Voices for LGBTQ Equality in 2016: President Barack Obama

As 2016 comes to a close, there is no doubt that this year was difficult for many in the LGBTQ and allied community. After a year of such celebration and momentous progress in 2015, 2016 was a shocking wake-up call to many about the realities that LGBTQ people face. From the rise in anti-LGBTQ legislation to the horrific shooting at Pulse, from the incidents of anti-transgender violence to the election of a presidential ticket that threatened to undermine equality and justice, we know that our job is more important now than ever before.

However, through these difficult times, we witnessed countless moments of inspiration. Throughout the year, time and time again, we saw people stand up and do what was right. Whether they were celebrities, politicians, a friend or just an acquaintance, we saw people stand up for equality and inspire us all. Their stories made us cry, gave us hope and reminded us that love will conquer hate.

Viewed in full, Barack Obama’s legacy of achievement for LGBTQ people is unmatched by any president in American history. We’ve accomplished landmark victories from the courts to Congress, and through the implementation of executive policies that advance basic fairness.

As we prepare for Obama’s departure from the Oval Office in the coming month, here are just a few of the most impactful ways his Administration has advanced the cause of equal rights for all Americans – no matter who they are or who they love – in 2016.

President Obama designated the first-ever LGBTQ National Monument at Stonewall. The Stonewall National Monument will pay tribute to the brave individuals who stood up to oppression and helped ignite a fire in a movement to end unfair and unjust discrimination against LGBTQ people. This was a monumental step in the recognition of our community’s contributions to America’s march towards liberty and justice for all.

President Obama appointed the first openly transgender White House staffer, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan as Outreach and Recruitment Director for Presidential Personnel in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, said, “Her commitment to bettering the lives of transgender Americans, particularly transgender people of color and those in poverty, reflects the values of the administration.”

The Department of Defense released its handbook detailing the implementation of transgender military service. This groundbreaking moment moved the U.S. military closer to ensuring every qualified American can serve openly and honestly.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights implemented a regulation that provides explicit protections from discrimination on the basis of sex stereotyping—including for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people—and gender identity in healthcare and insurance under the provisions of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The Department of Education issued new guidance for school districts to ensure that transgender students will be treated with dignity in public and federally funded schools, including having equal access to sex-segregated facilities, such as restrooms and locker rooms, that are consistent with their gender identity.

To learn more about President Obama’s accomplishments, visit

Follow along with HRC’s blog in the coming days as we recognize the people who inspired us and gave us hope, courage and strength in 2016.