HRC Blog

White House Holds Summit on LGBT Health in Philadelphia

LGBT healthThe White House hosted a conference on LGBT health on Thursday, the first in a series of LGBT summits slated to be held across the country throughout the spring.

More than 300 attendees from 22 states attended the conference at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia and heard from administration officials from the Department of Health and Human Services, including a keynote address from Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. John Berry, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management and the highest ranking openly gay official in the federal government, opened the conference.

Sebelius and Berry highlighted the work of the Obama administration over the past three years to protect LGBT individuals and families from discrimination, specifically noting the successful repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Department of Justice’s decision to end its defense of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Secretary Sebelius specifically addressed the administrative developments that HHS has undertaken over the past three years to improve the lives of LGBT people, including the hospital visitation and medical decision-making protections for LGBT families, as well as agency-wide health data collection efforts, and the recently published National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Sebelius also emphasized the impact of the Affordable Care Act and health reform on the LGBT community.

Attendees also heard from three other leaders within HHS – Kathy Greenlee, the Assistant Secretary for Aging;  Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health; and Ken Choe, the Deputy General Counsel – and engaged in a town hall discussion with the officials.

The conference gave attendees an opportunity to attend breakout sessions on topics like aging, youth, HIV/AIDS prevention, transgender health, and healthcare reform. Each of the sessions allowed local and community leaders to engage in substantive conversations with key officials from the Administration, creating a real dialogue on issues of importance to the LGBT community. One workshop, “Health Care Reform: Expanding Access and Coverage,” was moderated by Christopher Labonte,  a member of the HRC Board of Directors.  Laura Bonner, a member of the HRC Board of Governors, was also in attendance to share her perspectives as a member of the community and as a social worker.

 The White House has announced an upcoming conference on LGBT housing and homelessness which will take place in Detroit on March 9.  If you have the opportunity to attend one of these sessions, please do.  It is time well spent.  For more information or to register visit


Chris Labonte, a member of HRC’s Board of Directors and the Philadelphia Steering Committee, contributed to this post.    

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