Obama's use of "gay" parallels rise in support for equality

WASHINGTON – A new report from the Human Rights Campaign shows that President Obama’s unprecedented usage of words including “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual” and “transgender” in his public statements is contributing immensely to the political mainstreaming of LGBT people and marriage equality within American society.

The report, which also examines the public statements of former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, found that President Obama has used the word “gay” more than any of his predecessors – 272 times. The report shows that during President Obama’s time in office, support for marriage equality has exploded from 40% in 2008 to 53% in 2013.

“Words matter an enormous amount, and when President Obama uses his platform to declare that LGBT people are just as American as anyone else, it has a huge and historic effect. President Obama has helped the American people get to know LGBT people on a personal level, and evidence suggests that when people know us, they don’t want to discriminate against us,” HRC president Chad Griffin said. “President Obama has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of LGBT people, and the power of his rhetoric has been an essential part of that legacy.”

Key findings from the report include:

* Throughout his time in the White House, President Obama has said the word “gay” in a public speech, statement or proclamation at least 272 times.

* President Obama has used the word “transgender” at least 33 times in speeches, statements and proclamations. He’s used the word “bisexual” at least 28 times, and “lesbian” at least 88 times.

* On the 2012 campaign trail, Obama used the word “gay” 62 times at rallies and fundraisers. Mitt Romney spoke about marriage equality only once, and it was in the context of excluding loving, committed same-gender couples from marriage.

* In his two terms in the White House, President Clinton used the word “gay” 216 times in public speeches, statements or proclamations, of which 46 instances were regarding gays in the military and 80 instances were regarding Matthew Shepard or hate crime legislation.

* President Obama has consistently emphasized that rights and the pursuit of success should not be denied to anyone based on whom they love.

* Since President Obama has been in office, the percentage of Americans who support marriage equality has risen from 40% in 2008 to 53% in 2013, according to Gallup polling.

* Immediately following President Obama’s 2012 endorsement of same-gender marriage, the number of African-Americans who supported marriage equality skyrocketed to 59%, up from an average of 41%, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

* The rising tide of public support for marriage equality has been reflected in opinion shifts by prominent GOP lawmakers as well. Republican Sens. Rob Portman, Mark Kirk and Lisa Murkowski have all endorsed marriage equality. And in February 2013, more than 150 Republicans signed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit striking down Proposition 8.

“When an elected official uses his or her platform to send a message of dignity and respect, Americans respond,” said Griffin. “We hope that the growing momentum for equality will ensure future presidents – regardless of their party affiliation – continue this trend.”

The full report is available online at www.hrc.org/ObamaReport.

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