President Obama Supports Marriage Equality

Showing real diversity leadership, President Obama today announced his support for same-sex marriage.

President Obama

Showing real diversity leadership, President Obama today announced his support for same-sex marriage. His decision, applauded immediately by supporters of diversity and inclusion, came after pressure from the LGBT community and DiversityInc, among others.

“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

His announcement comes a day after the voters in North Carolina overwhelmingly voted to ban same-sex marriage and prohibit local governments from offering domestic-partner benefits.

The lesson is one several CEOs have learned. Vice President Joe Biden took a visible stand on Sunday, when he announced on “Meet the Press,” a Sunday-morning TV talk show, his adamant support for same-sex marriage. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan very publicly added his adamant support.

Obama said he has supported other LGBT rights, including the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” after long deliberations. Read Ask the White Guy: What Changed Obama’s Mind About Gay Rights?

Several states are considering same-sex-marriage legislation, both positive and negative. The recent events include the California court decision to strike down the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage that DiversityInc covered earlier this year. Minnesota faces a ban on same-sex marriages in November while Maine residents are being asked to approve marriage equality.

Fifty percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, according to the latest Gallup poll. By comparison, a 2000 Harris poll showed that only 15 percent of Americans at that time approved same-sex marriage. That may not be a comfortable-enough margin for Obama, but it’s a telling indicator that public conviction is changing.

Equality for LGBT people is not a bargaining chip but a fundamental civil right, as noted in the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)’s President Joe Solmonese’s official statement. And real leaders must unequivocally support ALL human rights. This lesson has been demonstrated in corporate America several times by diversity-management leaders, especially CEOs. Click on the images to download a PDF of our Diversity Leadership LGBT Pride Timeline and Facts & Figures.

LGBT Pride Timeline

LGBT Pride Facts & Figures








Corporate Diversity-Leadership Lessons

There are several positive examples of CEOs and corporate leaders who have stood up for LGBT rights with great success. 

In the cases of all of these companies, their CEOs stood firmly and visibly behind their decisions to stand up for equality for everyone. Many of these CEOs have told DiversityInc in interviews why they are visible supporters of rights for everyone, including Bob McDonald of Procter & Gamble (No. 5), John Veihmeyer of KPMG, John Stumpf of Wells Fargo (No. 33), Ernst & Young’s Jim Turley, and PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Bob Moritz.

Read What Clinton’s Global LGBT-Rights Speech Means for Your Company.

Vacuum in Diversity Leadership

In the absence of real diversity leadership, those who oppose equality win. There are several companies, including Walmart, whose leaders have to this point been reluctant to advocate for equal treatment of employees, including domestic-partner health benefits for same-sex partners of employees.

The absence of this equality costs companies support in the community from LGBT people, from their friends and allies, and increasingly from younger people, according to several polls from Gallup and other organizations. Read Civil-Rights Progress: Helping LGBT Youth for more information.

It also costs companies a spot on the DiversityInc Top 50 list (a policy that’s been in place for the past four years). This year, when the HRC increased its qualifications for the Corporate Equality Index (CEI), including more provisions for transgender people, we added scoring penalties in the DiversityInc Top 50 for companies that received less than an 80 percent on the CEI. Read Our Analysis of the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index.

The momentum is shifting quickly toward marriage equality, despite the backlash factor remaining in states such as North Carolina. Diversity leadership means taking a public stand. Thank you, President Obama.

Read Ask the White Guy: Decision Making, Clarity of Values & What to Do When It Goes Horribly Wrong for more on the importance of communicating diversity-leadership values

–Barbara Frankel

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  • I have one question? Who has been the constant advocate for LGBT rights and getting several equality rights bills enacted in the past 4 years. Though there are many foot soldiers to this cause, none of them wear the title nor responsibility of being the President of the United States for ALL people. That fact and his actions over the years have done nothing but advance forward the ideas and successes for the LGBT community and is proof enough that he is with you all. I find these qualities are what defines our President and strengthens the human rights cause of everyone. He does not need to make some grand statement for all to hear when his actions speak so much louder than the words he is being pressured by the press to speak out on. What are you gonna do………. holler, scream, derail his campaign for President or better yet vote for the other party?

  • Great article. Personally, I am torn between Obama “coming out” in full support (which I believe he really does feel) and waiting until he is re-elected. I do fear that if he comes out with his full support now, narrow minded bigots will use it in their fear tactics to swing the votes in swing states. Then we’ll have Mitt 1% Romney in office and the country will be doomed in many ways. Not just in Equality.

  • Allison Sinclair

    We need someone like Obama on our side. When the time is right he will do what he needs to do. All of a sudden marriage equality is the big issue when ENDA is of greater importance. In 29 states, you can be fired for being gay and in 37 states there are absolutely no protections for Trans individuals. Jobs are more important than who you marry at this time!!!!

  • Very welcome news, but a day late and a dollar short for the people of North Carolina.

  • It makes me angry that Repubs get a pass on this issue and the President has to bear the brunt of this decision by himself.

  • I think so many people are losing sight of the “real” issue; I think they are getting so hung up on the word “marriage” that they miss the point.

    What I believe most of us are looking for is the knowledge that the one we love will be taken care of, not taken advantage of if something happens to us; that if one of us is ill the other has the right to come visit and stay by our side; to know that family can’t strip them of all we built together because there is no legal protection for the life we built.

    I am so glad to see that the President of our country gets that. But also saddened that he has to virtually put his political career on the line to show he believes in “human rights”.

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