A Memorable Month of Pride in America

06/30/2015 07:11 pm ET | Updated Jun 30, 2016
RAUL ARBOLEDA via Getty Images

For too long, same-sex couples have fought tirelessly for their basic civil rights. Loving, committed partners, along with millions of families and supporters, have challenged the status quo, and demanded that all Americans receive equal treatment under the law, and the opportunity for them and their families to live anywhere in this great country, with the dignity, respect, and rights that all Americans deserve.

On Friday, June 26th, the Supreme Court honored their fight and handed down one of the most historic rulings of our generation. The highest court in the land ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage equality.

Friday's decision was momentous -- and as President Obama said in his remarks following the decision, the Supreme Court has "reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to the equal protection of the law. That all people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love."

After years of waiting, marriage equality is a reality. The ruling represents an enormous victory for same-sex couples, their children, and their supporters, many of whom have dedicated their lives to this struggle. The decision also provides a historic close to this year's LGBT Pride Month -- an annual celebration of the courage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. But central to celebrating Pride is recognizing the work that is yet to be done. Not until every American -- whether gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender -- is treated equally under the law will we fully realize our potential as a nation.

As the president said on Friday, "The decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts: When all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free." This is the Administration's guiding principle on issues of LGBT equality -- from the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," to ending the legal defense of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). From restructuring benefits following the end of DOMA, to appointing a record number of openly LGBT Americans to the Administration. And last July, of course, the President signed an Executive Order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity -- protecting up to 1.5 million Americans from discrimination based on who they are or who they love.

Throughout Pride Month this June, the White House has welcomed leaders from around the world to discuss issues facing the LGBT community. On June 1st, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration kicked off the month by releasing its Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers, upholding the principle that all employees should have access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. On June 12, the White House, National Security Council, State Department, and USAID welcomed experts on policing and LGBT rights from Europe, Africa, and Latin America to discuss community efforts to prevent bias-motivated violence, the role of law enforcement, and other steps the government can take to protect LGBT individuals.

And on June 23rd, the White House hosted an LGBT substance abuse roundtable to discuss best practices for recovery and treatment in the LGBT community. The next day, the White House hosted a briefing on how the president's priorities around health care, climate change, education, and international LGBT rights are impacting the LGBT community. This briefing was in conjunction with a White House announcement that after 2015, federal employees' health insurers can no longer contain blanket exclusions for transgender-inclusive health care such as hormone therapy.

Also last week, the Office of Science and Technology Policy hosted a "We The Geeks: Made With Pride" Google hangout to recognize the accomplishments of makers and LGBT people in technology, and explore strategies for diversifying science and technology fields.

To close out the month, the president hosted a Pride Month reception for LGBT leaders and allies at the White House on Wednesday, June 24th.

2015 has also marked some important steps forward in our society for transgender Americans, as more and more of our neighbors, family members and loved ones are feeling the freedom and support they need to embrace their personal identities. More businesses are standing up against anti-LGBT legislation in states and we've seen a real shift towards broader public acceptance and understanding.

As our work continues in the months and years to come, we must remember to keep pushing for things like a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and a society in which every child in America feels supported and safe to pursue their happiness, regardless of who they are or whom they love. We also must remember this period as proof of what is possible when we work hard, work together, and pursue the highest ideals of our country.

President Obama said it best while honoring the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington: "But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete. The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn't bend on its own. To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency."