President Barack Obama spent a considerable amount of time praising LGBT activists during the last press conference of his presidency.
Obama reflected on the progress lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have made over the past several years both in legal status and in society.
“The primary heroes in this stage of our growth as a democracy and a society are all the individuals activists and sons and daughters and couples who courageously said, ‘This is who I am and I’m proud of it,'” Obama said. “And that opened people’s minds and opened their hearts. And eventually laws caught up.”
Obama said such activists helped society “move in a better direction,” but not in a way that created “an enormous backlash.”
He also praised television personality and comedian Ellen DeGeneres specifically.
“When I gave Ellen the Presidential Medal of Freedom, I meant what I said,” Obama said. “I think somebody that kind and likeable projecting into living rooms around the country, that changed attitudes. And that wasn’t easy to do for her. And that’s just one small example of what was happening in countless communities across the country.”
Obama said he doesn’t see society moving backward in terms of LGBT rights.
“I don’t think it is something that will be reversible because American society has changed,” he said. “The attitudes of young people in particular have changed. That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be some fights that are important, legal issues, issues surrounding transgender persons, there are still going to be some battles that need to take place.”
He then referenced the influence of his daughters’ generation.
“If you talk to young people of Malia, Sasha’s generation, even if they’re conservative, many of them would tell you ‘I don’t understand how you would discriminate against somebody because of sexual orientation,'” Obama said. “That’s just burned into them in pretty powerful ways.”
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