President Barack Obama was the first president to mention lesbian, bisexual and transgender people during his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, when he commented on the persecution of minority groups throughout the world, but he's not the first president to reference the gay community in America during the national address.
"As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we're threatened, which is why I've prohibited torture and worked to make sure our use of technology, like drones, is properly constrained. That's why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they're right, but because they make us safer," Obama said.
Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center in California, praised the president's acknowledgment of the LGBT community.
"I listened to the State of the Union with bated breath," he told The Huffington Post. "Obama's public recognition of transgender people in his State of the Union address was historic. It is time for the American public to become aware of our stories and struggles both at home and around the globe."
Transgender advocacy has been in the news lately, ever since the suicide of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn, who left behind a note asking for transgender people to be "treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Fix society. Please."
Since then, a petition meant to be sent to Obama has garnered over 350,000 signatures. The petition calls for a national ban on reparative/conversion therapy, which some transgender people, such as the-late Alcorn, say is dangerous and harmful. Two states, California and New Jersey, have outlawed the practice for minors, as has the District of Columbia.
Christopher Doyle, president and co-founder of Voice of the Voiceless, an organization that advocates for the rights of former homosexuals, however, told The Christian Post that the push to ban this type of therapy "is for political purposes."
"If some individuals can change their sexual orientation that proves that being 'gay' is not inborn, and therefore, some politicians may be less inclined to support full equality for LGBT citizens (including gay marriage), because if homosexuality is viewed as a clinical condition that can be changed, it's more difficult for gay unions to be thought of as equivalent to heterosexual marriages."
While Obama is the first president to specifically name the lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities in the State of the Union speech, former President Bill Clinton twice mentioned the gay community his 1999 and 2000 addresses to the nation.
Clinton was the first president to mention "gay" during his State of the Union address in 2000, according to the LGBT publication The Washington Blade. And in 1999, the former president used the term "sexual orientation" while talking about hate crimes legislation and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
"Discrimination or violence because of race or religion, ancestry or gender, disability or sexual orientation, is wrong, and it ought to be illegal," Clinton said. "Therefore, I ask Congress to make the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act the law of the land."