Barack Obama’s 12 Most Impressive Accomplishments In Office

From changing healthcare to trans rights.

Although Barack Obama’s final day as president of the United State of America isn’t until January 20, 2017, it already feels like the next batch of candidates has been campaigning for a century.

As we look toward the future, let’s take a moment to look back and enjoy Obama’s incredible impact on LGBT people, minorities and women – not to mention America at large – while we’ve still got him and reflect on his incredible achievements during his two terms in office.

Here are 12 of some of President Obama’s greatest moments as Commander in Chief.


  1. The end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

    Obama’s repeal of the law barring openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people from military service helped change the culture’s idea of both the LGBT community and the U.S. military.

  2. The Affordable Care Act

    In addition to insuring millions of Americans and requiring insurance to cover contraception, Obama has also proposed expansions to the law that would ban health care providers and insurance companies from discriminating against transgender patients.

  3. Executive support for gay marriage

    <> on June 26, 2015 in Washington, DC.

    Sure, Obama “wrestled” with same-sex marriage for longer than we would have liked. And the decision was ultimately the Supreme Court’s. But Obama’s vocal determination that the Defense of Marriage Act was indefensible by the federal government served as crucial support for the court’s later decision.

  4. Changing the face of the government

    In addition to his own historic victory as the first African American American president, Obama has made a point of nominating and appointing women, queer and minority people to high-level posts.

    To name a few: Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court justice (the court’s first Latina and third female justice), Amanda Simpson for Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy (the first transgender woman appointed by any U.S. President) and Dave Noble (an openly gay man who serves as Obama’s Deputy Assistant and Deputy Director of Presidential Personnel).

  5. Improving federal hate crime law

    President Barack Obama greets Louvon Harris, left, Betty Byrd Boatner, right, both sisters of James Byrd, Jr., and Judy Shepard, center, mother of Matthew Shepard, following his remarks at a reception commemorating the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, in the East Room, of the White House, October 28, 2009.
    Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

    Previous hate crime legislation only protected victims of crimes motivated by race, religion, or nationality – and only when the victim was engaged in a federal activity like voting.

    Obama dropped the bizarre federal activity requirement and expanded federal protections to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

  6. Amending federal non-discrimination law for employment

    In 2014, Obama expanded a Johnson-era law prohibiting federal hiring discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, and nationality to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

  7. Introducing executive actions to reduce gun violence

    It is still unclear whether conservatives will legally challenge the President’s recent executive orders on guns or not.

    But Obama bypassed Congress this month to issue some pretty admirable goals: Tougher background checks for gun owners, more effective enforcement of current gun law, safer gun technology and better mental health treatment for all Americans.

  8. Lifting the ban on HIV-positive people entering the U.S.

    U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks during a World AIDS Day event at the Jack Morton Auditorium on the campus of George Washington University December 1, 2011 in Washington, DC.
    Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    In the first year of his first term, Obama ended a 22-year ban on travel to the United States by HIV-positive people, requiring HIV tests for residency applications.

    The President hoped it would position America as a global leader in combating the stigma of HIV, in addition to combating the virus.

  9. Helping transgender people to define their own legal gender

    Obama has worked with the State Department and the Social Security Administration to allow Americans to state a gender on their passport and other legal documents that is different from the gender recorded on their birth certificate, without requiring proof of gender reassignment surgery.

  10. Expanding Title IX to protect transgender students

    Obama added a historic guideline to the civil rights law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender in federally funded schools to include gender identity.

    In addition to protecting against prejudice, this broader articulation of the law allowed transgender students to fight for appropriate restroom and dormitory accommodations on campus.

  11. Signing the Student Aid Bill of Rights

    Taking note of the increasing political anger toward crippling student debt from figures like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Obama proposed a series of initiatives to improve communication between loan holders and servicers and created a centralized complaint system for students to air grievances against both lenders and schools.

  12. Inviting critics of the Pope to meet the Pope

    When Pope Francis visited the White House, much to the Vatican’s chagrin, Obama invited gay Episcopalian bishop Gene Robinson and transgender activist Mateo Williamson to his welcome ceremony in Washington D.C.

Obama, though your presence will be missed, your impact will remain.