Bishop Mary Glasspool applauds Obama's focus on LGBT rights as human rights at White House reception, briefing

July 7, 2011

Praising the Obama administration for upholding human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) persons in domestic and international contexts, Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Mary D. Glasspool attended a June 29 White House reception and policy briefing in honor of LGBT Pride Month.

Addressing 500 guests in the East Room, President Barack Obama traced the "deeper shift we're seeing" to a "transformation not just in our laws but in the hearts and minds of people." He said the shift is "propelled not by politics, but by love and friendship and a sense of mutual regard and mutual respect.

"It's playing out in legislatures like New York," Obama said, some four days after that state's vote authorizing same-gender marriage. "It's playing out in courtrooms. It's playing out in the ballot box... but it's also happening around water coolers. It's happening at Thanksgiving tables. It's happening on Facebook and Twitter and at P.T.A. meetings and potluck dinners at church halls and V.F.W. halls.

"It happens when a father realizes he doesn't just love his daughter but also her partner," Obama said, "It happens when a soldier tells a unit that he's gay and they say, 'Yeah, we knew that. But you're a good soldier."

The two-hour briefing, held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, covered topics including health and human services, housing, HIV/AIDS, a report from the Department of Justice, and an update on reversal of the U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

Glasspool joined "It Gets Better" campaign creator Dan Savage and Courage Campaign chair Rick Jacobs, among others, for brief private greetings and photos with Obama. She attended the reception and briefing with her partner of more than 22 years, Becki Sander.

Glasspool reflected on her experience at the briefing and reception in a video report posted on the diocesan website.

Glasspool said she was especially moved by a report from Uganda presented during the "International LGBT Administration Efforts" segment by David Pressman, White House National Security Council director for war crimes and atrocities.

"Contrary to the ferocious-sounding job title," Glasspool said, "Mr. Pressman told one of the most hope-filled stories of the morning.

"You may have heard of David Kato, the 48-year-old gay rights activist in Uganda who was brutally murdered on January 26, 2011, in what was certainly an act our own country would call a hate crime.

"Kato was an Anglican, and while Mr. Pressman did not explicitly mention this as he told the story, his words went straight to my heart," Glasspool said.

"At Kato's funeral service, attended by hundreds of gay activists as well as family and friends, the presiding pastor launched into an anti-gay tirade which shocked and angered most of those in attendance," she said.

"The microphone was grabbed away from the preacher, and a scuffle ensued, with the police being called and escorting the pastor away. Finally, someone got up to address the gathering, and read to them President Obama's statement, which included a description of David Kato as 'a powerful advocate for fairness and freedom.'

"Bringing comfort to the mourners," Glasspool said, "the statement continued: 'LGBT rights are not special rights; they are human rights.'"

Full text of Obama's statement regarding Kato's murder is here.