Jimmy Carter has been longtime LGBTQ ally

Jimmy Carter, LGBTQ rights, Gay rights

Harvey Milk, left, meets presidential candidate Jimmy Carter in this 1976 photo. Photo: Harvey Milk Foundation.

Former President Jimmy Carter, a long-time ally of the LGBTQ community, will begin receiving hospice care, according to a statement from The Carter Center on Saturday.

“After a series of short hospital stays, former US President Jimmy Carter today decided to spend his remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention. He has the full support of his family and his medical team,” the statement said.

Carter, who turned 98 last year, is the oldest living U.S. president in history. 

Carter, a Democrat and the nation’s 39th president, beat brain cancer in 2015, but faced a series of health scares in 2019, and underwent surgery to remove pressure on his brain.

His health issues forced him to give up his decades-long tradition of teaching Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia.

A peanut farmer and Navy lieutenant before going into politics, Jimmy Carter served one term as Georgia’s governor and one term as the president from 1977 to 1981.

As a presidential candidate and as president, Carter achieved several historic firsts for the LGBTQ community.

  • In 1976, as a presidential candidate, Carter said he would sign a gay rights bill.
  • During his presidency in 1977, the first gay and lesbian delegation visited the White House to discuss policy issues with administration officials.
  • On a visit to California in 1978, Carter urged voters to defeat Proposition 6, also know as the Briggs Initiative, which would have barred gays and lesbians from teaching in the state’s public schools. Voters rejected the anti-gay and lesbian measure by more than 1 million votes.
  • When Carter ran for reelection in 1980, he was the first Democrat to endorse a gay rights plank in the party’s platform.
  • In 1980, Carter approved the first wreath to honor LGBTQ war dead at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Since leaving the White House, Carter has been an outspoken activist for human rights causes, including LGBTQ rights. He has disassociated himself from the Southern Baptist Convention, after attending Southern Baptist churches most of his life, due to anti-LGBTQ stances and unequal treatment of women.

A deeply religious man, Carter was asked about LGBTQ rights during an appearance at Michigan’s Grand Rapids Community College in 2014.

“I never knew of any word or action of Jesus Christ that discriminated against anyone,” Carter said.

The 89-year-old then likened discrimination based on sexual orientation to prejudice against a person’s skin color, economic class, and “whether they’re living in a foreign country or our country.”

“Discrimination against anyone and depriving them of actual equal rights in the United States is a violation of the basic principles of the Constitution that all of us revere in this country,” Carter told the crowd.

Carter is respected for human rights advocacy. A central part of his legacy is brokering the Camp David Accords with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1978.

In his post-presidency years, Carter founded The Carter Center along with his wife, Rosalynn, in hopes of advancing world peace and health. The center works to advance democracy by monitoring foreign elections and reducing diseases in developing countries.

Carter himself has been a longtime, hands-on volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.

Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his efforts to push for peace across the globe.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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