19 ways Barack Obama changed the world on LGBT rights

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With Barack Obama coming to the end of his Presidency, it’s easy to forget the incredible number of ways the Democrat flipped the conversation on LGBT rights in just eight years.

Ending the Republican-dominated Bush era of politics which saw LGBT people pushed to the margins, across eight years the Democrat has changed the paradigm again and again, often in spite of a hostlie Congress

As the end of his Presidency approaches, we take a look back at his range of achievements, which undoubtedly make him the most progressive LGBT ally to ever hold the office of President.

1. Signing a federal hate crime law

The 1998 homophobic murder of gay Wyoming resident Matt Shepard sparked national and international outcry.

Though Matt Shepard was murdered for being gay, no hate crime charge could be brought, as state law did not ban hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The case led Matthew’s parents Judy and Dennis Shepard to set up the Matthew Shepard Foundation, campaigning for protections in their son’s memory.

It was not until President Obama took office in 2009 that the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act, named in honour of both Shepard and an African-American murdered by white supremacists, was finally made law.

The Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama in October 2009, added federal-level hate crime protections for crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

Under the law, people who commit hate crimes anywhere in the US can face a federal charge, even if their state has no hate crime law.

2. Overturning ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’

Signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was a poor compromise intended to prohibit military personnel from ‘hunting’ and discriminating against gay soldiers, but also made it an offence to be openly gay in the military. The law, which saw hundreds of soldiers sacked for being gay, was defended by George W Bush’s administration.

In spite of protests from military officials, President Obama signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010, permitting gay, lesbian and bisexual people to serve openly in the military for the first time.

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