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By White House | on 25 March 2017
  • President Obama on Social Progress and Equality
  • Ensured Equality for LGBT Americans
  • Reformed US Immigration System
  • Fought for a Fairer, More Equitable Criminal Justice System
  • Expanded Opportunities for People with Disabilities
  • Improved Veteran Services
  • Took Action to Reduce Gun Violence
  • Tackled Poverty by Expanding Economic Opportunity and Investing in Neighborhoods and Communities

President Obama has led the fight to protect everyone — no matter who you are, where you're from, what you look like, or whom you love.

From pushing through sweeping rights and protections for LGBT Americans, to making our immigration system fairer and safer, to tackling poverty and investing in communities, here’s where the Administration's record stands.

Bar chart showing that the number of states with marriage equality in 2009 was 4 and in 2016 it was 50. Bar chart that shows the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in 2010 was 74,087 and in 2016 it was 39,471.

Ensured Equality for LGBT Americans


Advocated in favor of a Constitutional guarantee of marriage equality for same-sex couples—a position the Supreme Court vindicated in its historic decision in Obergefell v. Hodges

The President Speaks on the Supreme Court’s Decision on Marriage Equality

Watch on YouTube



Ended the government’s defense of the Defense of Marriage Act, leading to the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions holding the Act unconstitutional

In February 2011, the Administration announced it would cease legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act’s provision defining marriage as only between a man and woman.




Directed the Cabinet to review over 1,000 federal statutes and regulations to ensure the decision was implemented swiftly and smoothly by the federal government to recognize the rights of same-sex couples, following the Supreme Court decision in Windsor

After the United States v. Windsor decision, in which the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, the President instructed the Cabinet to review all federal statutes to ensure the decision was implemented swiftly and smoothly. After concluding its review, the Justice Department announced that in almost all instances it will extend benefits to same-sex married couples. 




Repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, allowing gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans to serve openly in the Armed Forces without fear of being dismissed from service because of who they are and whom they love

In December 2010, the President signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 into law, allowing gay men and women to serve openly and with integrity in the U.S. military.



Signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, historic legislation extending coverage of federal hate-crime law to include attacks based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity

In October 2009, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, extending coverage of federal hate crimes law to include attacks based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity—the first federal civil rights legislation to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” 



Signed an Executive Order extending the prohibitions against discrimination that apply to federal contractors and subcontractors to bar discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity

In July 2014, the President signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against any employee or applicant for employment “because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin,” continuing to set an example as a model employer that does right by its employees.



Required hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid to ensure that the rights of LGBT patients are respected by allowing individuals to designate visitors, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) now requires all hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds to allow visitation rights for LGBT patients. The President also directed HHS to ensure that medical decision making rights of LGBT patients are respected.



Took unprecedented steps to protect and promote the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming Americans

These actions include the issuance of landmark guidance from the Department of Justice that concluded that the prohibition against sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 encompasses claims of discrimination on the basis of gender identity, the release of a directive of the Veterans Health Administration on the respectful delivery of health care to transgender veterans through VA benefits, a new State Department policy making it easier for U.S. passport gender markers to be changed,  an end to the Social Security Administration’s practice of sending notifications to employers that the gender of an employee as submitted to the agency did not match social security records, a Department of Health and Human Services’ proposed rule banning transgender health care discrimination in the Affordable Care Act, and guidance from the Office of Personnel Management for the respectful treatment of transgender federal employees.

VA Fact Sheet on LGBT Veteran Health Care
Read the PDF

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Veteran Care
Read more


Supported legislative efforts to ban the use of so-called “conversion therapy” against minors and released a SAMHSA study condemning the practice

Read the Administration's response to a petition on banning conversion therapy.


Took a stand against bullying by honoring Spirit Day, hosting the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, and recording the President’s own “It Gets Better” video

President Obama: It Gets Better

Watch on YouTube



Developed and released the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States in 2010, and updated it through 2020 to address disparities faced by certain populations

President Obama on World AIDS Day 2016

Watch on YouTube

National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020



Announced the first ever national study of discrimination in housing against LGBT persons and, in January 2012 and in 2015, issued a final rule and subsequent guidance to ensure that the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s core housing programs and services are open to all persons regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity

Many same sex, transgender and gender non-conforming persons have reported discriminatory treatment based on sexual orientation when trying to access housing. Read more to see what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has done to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons have equal access to housing and HUD programs.



Issued guidance stating that Federal prosecutors should enforce criminal provisions in the Violence Against Women Act in cases involving same-sex relationships

Department of Justice: Memorandum Opinion for the Acting Attorney General



Advanced the rights of LGBT persons around the world through action at the UN, a Presidential Memorandum that directs all federal agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons , and the appointment of the U.S. State Department’s first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons

Presidential Memorandum -- International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons


Reformed Our Immigration System


Implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy for young undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children in an effort to better focus enforcement resources

Since its establishment, the Department of Homeland Security has approved close to 740,000 DACA requests on a case-by-case basis. More than 526,000 individuals have also successfully renewed DACA.



Took steps to reduce barriers for high-skilled immigrants by identifying and reducing undue immigration barriers faced by foreign-born entrepreneurs

Taking Action to Attract High-Skilled Immigrants, Graduates, and Entrepreneurs

Read about the key things that the President’s executive actions will do to improve the immigration system for high-skilled workers, graduates, and entrepreneurs.



Provided work-authorization to spouses of high-skilled workers on their path to becoming lawful permanent residents—over 52,000 spouses have now received work authorization

Extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants is one of several initiatives underway to modernize, improve and clarify visa programs to grow the U.S. economy and create jobs.



Created the White House Task Force for on New Americans, which launched the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign to help local communities strengthen integration efforts and the “Stand Stronger” Citizenship Awareness Campaign

On November 21, 2014, the President established the White House Task Force on New Americans—a government-wide effort tasked with better integrating immigrants and refugees into American communities. 



Reduced family separation for those waiting to obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status through a new United States Citizenship and Immigration Services provisional waiver process for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. This process has recently been enhanced and expanded to include additional relatives of U.S. citizens and relatives of LPRs. USCIS also published policy guidance to provide more clarity on the standards for obtaining this waiver. Since 2013, more than 80,000 individuals have obtained this waiver.

Provisional Waiver Process USCIS Implemented in 2013 and Expanded and Clarified in 2016



Provided better service to legal immigrants, employers and others through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ E-Verify Program

Employer enrollment in E-Verify, which allows employers to verify electronically that an employee is eligible to work in the U.S., has more than doubled since January 2009, with more than 561,000 participating companies representing more than 1.7 million hiring sites. More than 28 million queries were processed in FY 2014.



Launched an updated USCIS website that includes a new Spanish version and an online tool that allows individuals, for the first time ever, to get updates on their citizenship and other applications online or via text message

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Page



Launched the “Stand Stronger” Citizenship Awareness Campaign to promote naturalization opportunities to the 8.8. million LPRs who may be eligible and provided new tools to prepare applicants for citizenship through the "Citizenship Resource Center"

Citizenship Resource Center



Established the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program that provides funding for high-quality citizenship preparation programs for lawful permanent residents across the country

Now in its seventh year, the program has awarded more than $63 million through 308 competitive grants to immigrant-serving organizations in 37 states and the District of Columbia. USCIS has also expanded partnerships with cities to promote citizenship and create citizenship corners.

Citizenship and Integration Grant Program and Local Partnerships



Worked with the Armed Forces to naturalize tens of thousands of military personnel. Between fiscal years 2010 and 2015, more than 21,000 individuals serving in the military have naturalized.

Honoring the Contributions of Immigrants Serving in the Military



Standardized the process for applying for waivers for fees associated with immigration applications and petitions, including full fee waivers of the naturalization fee

In 2016, USCIS created a reduced filing fee option for naturalization applicants with family incomes greater than 150 percent and not more than 200 percent as a part the publication of its rule to adjust the fees for application and petitions.



Increased the annual number of refugees admitted to the United States while ensuring robust security screening and addressed the unique challenges refugees face by increasing medical screening, providing new mental health resources, and conducting comprehensive on-going reviews grant programs

The President announced that the United States will increase the number of refugees we resettle to 110,000 in 2017, increasing the number of people we received by almost 40 percent over a two-year period.

The President also hosted a Leader’s Summit on Refugees, a global gathering that generate broader and deeper commitments to refugee protections and assistance.



Expanded initiatives to address the ongoing humanitarian challenges in Central America by establishing and expanding mechanisms for vulnerable individuals, including children of lawfully present parents in the United States, to enter the country as refugees or through other humanitarian mechanisms, and creating an option for immediate transfer to Costa Rica for those individuals in of need of immediate protection.

Steps to Address Migration Challenges



Implemented critical reforms to immigration enforcement by establishing new priorities that focus limited resources on national security, public safety, and border security threats

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has set clear enforcement priorities so that individuals who are a threat to our public safety and national security, such as convicted criminals, are the highest enforcement priority. These efforts are producing real results.

  • Over 99% of those in immigration detention fit within one of the enforcement priorities and around 85% are within the top priority for removal. The percentage of convicted criminals detained is 60%, as compared to 35% in 2009.
  • In FY 2015, ICE conducted 235,413 removals, of which 69,478 were conducted in the interior, 91% of which involved individuals with a previous criminal conviction. Another 75,829 were conducted at or near the border or ports of entry.



Developed the new Priority Enforcement Program to better collaborate with state and local law enforcement in order to detain and remove convicted criminals, while maintaining community trust

Effectively identifying and removing criminals in state and local jails is a critical goal but it must be done in a way that sustains the community’s trust. To address concerns from Governors, Mayors, law enforcement and community leaders which have undermined cooperation with DHS, Secretary Johnson replaced the existing Secure Communities program with a new Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) to remove those convicted of criminal offenses. The vast majority of state and local jurisdictions participate in PEP, including 20 of the top 25 jurisdictions who previously declined to cooperate with DHS. DHS also continues to rely on biometric data to verify individuals who are enforcement priorities, and they works with DOJ’s Bureau of Prisons to identify and remove federal criminals serving time as soon as possible.



Strengthened the immigration court system, which is housed in the Department of Justice, by increasing the number of immigration judges and staff, enhancing training and mentoring programs to ensure that those judges are ready to hear cases fairly and promptly, and improving access to legal information for immigrants.

In FY 2016, the Department of Justice had a net increase of 42 immigration judges and has set a record for the size of the immigration judge corps. Ninety-five more candidates are moving through various stages of the hiring process.



Expanded access to low-cost legal services through a variety of efforts to ensure better protections for those least able to represent themselves

The Department of Justice has taken various steps to enhance legal representation for individuals in removal proceedings by:

  • Finalizing a rule to revise the Recognition and Accreditation Program, which authorizes non-attorney representatives to represent respondents in immigration proceedings before the Executive Office for Immigration Review at the Department of Justice, as well as the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Launched a three-year partnership between the Department of Justice and the Corporation for National and Community Service, creating justice AmeriCorps, which provides access to legal services by enrolling lawyers and paralegals as AmericCorps members to provide services to unaccompanied children in immigration court proceedings. Since 2014, this program has assisted over 2,300 unaccompanied children.
  • Started the National Qualified Representative Program, which provides qualified representatives to certain unrepresented and detained respondents, whom the Executive Office for Immigration Review adjudicators find to be mentally incompetent to represent themselves in immigration proceedings.
  • Launched a Remote Access Initiative in April 2016 to provide direct representation to unaccompanied children who live in areas of the Southeastern United States that present barriers to accessing legal services.
  • Created the Baltimore Representation Initiative for Unaccompanied Children, which provides contract funding for two attorneys to represent unaccompanied children in proceedings at the Baltimore Immigration Court.
  • Launched information helpdesks at five immigration courts, provided services to unrepresented individuals including in-person information sessions, self-help guidance to individuals without counsel, and information on available pro bono resources through the Immigration Court Helpdesk Program.



Fought the unauthorized practice of immigration law (“notario fraud”) by developing outreach materials, prosecuting unscrupulous scammers, and building local collaborations

The Executive Office for Immigration Review is taking steps to increase awareness of its Fraud and Abuse Prevention Program, which serves as a centralized referral point for issues involving fraud, scams, and the unauthorized practice of immigration law. EOIR also provides trainings on the unauthorized practice of law and distributes outreach materials for stakeholders and the general public.



Established an Interagency Working Group to better coordinate cases where federal responsibilities to enforce labor, employment and immigration laws may overlap so that workers who cooperate with law enforcement can do so without fear of retaliation

This Interagency Working Group launched a pilot to identify and prevent instances in which ICE and employment labor enforcement agencies have conflicting enforcement actions and added an Addendum to their 2011 MOU to include additional parties to address potential conflicts in civil worksite enforcement activities.

Department of Labor Immigration Fact Sheets


Fought for a Fairer, More Equitable Criminal Justice System


Toured a federal prison, marking the first such visit by a sitting President

In July 2015, President Obama visited the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution outside of Oklahoma City, marking the first visit by a sitting President to a federal prison.

President Obama Visits the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution

Watch on YouTube



Read the Transcript


Signed the Fair Sentencing Act to ease the disparity in the amounts of powder cocaine and crack cocaine required to trigger certain penalties in the federal system, including the imposition of rigid mandatory minimum sentences, and supported legislative reforms to make sentencing laws smarter, fairer and more effective

In August 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduces the disparity in the amounts of powder cocaine and crack cocaine required for the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences and eliminates the mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine. It also increases monetary penalties for major drug traffickers.



Established Smart on Juvenile Justice grant program to expand the use of effective community-based alternatives to youth detention

OJJDP Announces New Smart on Juvenile Justice Funding Opportunities



Launched Second Chance Pell Pilot Program for Incarcerated Individuals to test new models to allow incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants and pursue the postsecondary education with the goal of helping them get jobs, support their families, and turn their lives around

U.S. Department of Education Launches Second Chance Pell Pilot Program for Incarcerated Individuals​



Established the Federal Interagency Reentry Council to bring together the domestic agencies to improve the opportunities for success for the formerly incarcerated

The Administration has advanced numerous effective reintegration strategies through the work of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, whose mission is to reduce recidivism and victimization; assist those returning from prison, jail or juvenile facilities to become productive citizens; and save taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration.

Through the Reentry Council and other federal agency initiatives, the Administration has improved rehabilitation and reintegration opportunities in meaningful ways, including recent initiatives detailed here




Directed the Office of Personnel Management to take action to “ban the box,” resulting in a final rule prohibiting federal agencies from inquiring into a competitive service applicant’s criminal or credit history until after a conditional job offer has been made. The President also called on Congress to follow a growing number of states, cities, and private companies that have decided to “ban the box” on job applications

FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces New Actions to Promote Rehabilitation and Reintegration for the Formerly- Incarcerated



Expanded new ways to recruit and place job applicants based on their actual skills and to create more fast track tech training opportunities, including for individuals with criminal records, as a part of the Administration’s TechHire initiative

As a part of President Obama’s TechHire initiative, communities are taking action – working with each other and national employers – to expand access to tech jobs for more Americans with fast track training like coding boot camps and new recruitment and placement strategies.


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Author: White House
Publication date: 25 March 2017

Advancing Social Progress and Equality - Legacy of President Barack Obama
Credit: DiasporaEngager ( , 25 March 2017
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