On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal across the U.S., declaring that refusing to do so would violate the Constitution. Shortly after the high court’s landmark decision, the Obama administration celebrated by lighting the White House in rainbow colors.
Now, more than three years after that historic Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, former first lady Michelle Obama revealed that she and her daughter Malia, then 16, snuck out of the White House that night to join in on the fun happening outside their residence.
“We made our way down a marble staircase and over red carpets, around the busts of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin and past the kitchen until suddenly we were outdoors,” the former first lady wrote in her new bestselling book, “Becoming.” “Malia and I just busted past the agents on duty, neither one of us making eye contact. The humid summer air hit our faces. I could see fireflies blinking on the lawn. And there it was, the hum of the public, people whooping and celebrating outside the iron gates.”
“It had taken us 10 minutes to get out of our own home, but we’d done it,” she continued. “We were outside, standing on a patch of lawn off to one side, out of sight of the public but with a beautiful, close-up view of the White House, lit up in pride. Malia and I leaned into each other, happy to have found our way there.”
Obama also recounted the story in her appearance Thursday on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
“Thousands of people were gathering in front of the White House at that time to celebrate, and my staff was calling me, everybody was celebrating, people were crying, and I thought, ‘I want to be in that,’”she told DeGeneres, who is openly gay. “Also, we had worked to make sure that the White House was lit up in the LGBT colors.”
“It was beautiful,” she continued. “We stood along with all the cheering crowd, off to the side, mind you, so no one would see us, with security surrounding us, and we tried to have our tender mother-daughter moment, but we just took it in. I held her tight, and my feeling was, we are moving forward. Change is happening.”
During the Obama administration, the LGBTQ community saw an unprecedented expansion of rights and discrimination protections. Aside from two landmark Supreme Court decisions — United States v. Windsor in 2013 and Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 — the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed in 2009, gay people were permitted to serve openly in the military in 2011 and a 2014 executive order banned companies that do federal work from discriminating against LGBTQ workers, among other milestones.