Ellen DeGeneres and Barack Obama have both done a lot for the LGBT community in their respective spheres. When the president appeared on her show this past week, DeGeneres took the opportunity to thank him for his advocacy.
It's true — Obama's work has had a huge impact. Under his administration, the Don't Ask Don't Tell law was repealed, allowing gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans to serve openly in our armed forces. His administration also ended the legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), effectively granting gay and lesbian couples the same federal rights and legal protections as straight couples. He signed legislation that extended coverage of federal hate crimes to include attacks based on someone's sexual orientation, expanded health care for LGBT couples, ensured hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients and their loved ones, and — of course — helped drive the public conversation during the Supreme Court's deliberation over the legality of same-sex marriage.
But Obama had trouble accepting DeGeneres's compliment.
"As much as we've done with laws and ending Don't Ask Don't Tell, et cetera, changing hearts and minds, I don't think anyone has been more influential than you on that," he said. "You're just really likable ... you being willing to claim who you were suddenly empowers other people."
His words caught DeGeneres off guard, and she looked choked up as she processed what he was saying.
Being herself, though, she couldn't resist the opportunity for a joke once she got her composure.
"I'm not really gay," she said to laughter from the crowd. "I just thought it would work ... and I've had to stick with it because people responded well."