8 Major Changes Made During the Obama Administration

Today, for the first time since 2008, the White House will not be occupied by the Obama family. As we transition into a new presidency, here are some of the major changes that were made during the Obama administration. 

Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. administers the oath of office to President Barack Obama during the inaugural swearing-in ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2013. Photo courtesy of whitehouse.gov (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

1. Nullification of Bush’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (Systematic Torture Policies)

Only two days after taking office, on January 22, 2009, Obama nullified Bush-era policies that allowed prisoners in U.S. custody to undergo specific interrogation techniques considered inhumane under the Geneva Conventions, releasing the Bush legal rulings that supported the use of these techniques. He signed executive orders that closed the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, ending the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret prisons and requiring any interrogations to follow non coercive methods.

2. Eliminated Catch-22 in Equal Pay Laws

The president signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, which gave women paid less than men for completing the same work the right to sue their employers after finding out about the pay discrepancies, regardless of when the supposed discrimination occurred.

3. Investments in Renewable Energy

The Obama administration invested $90 billion in renewable technology in 2009, more than any previous administration. This investment led to increased research on smart grids, energy efficiency, electric cars, renewable electricity generation, cleaner coal and biofuel. Results of this investment include changes in the basic layout of solar farms and storing sunlight in molten salts to improve photovoltaic efficiency.

4. Affordable Care Act

One of the most controversial things put into place during Obama’s tenure was the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Affordable Care Act was enacted on March 23, 2010, after being met with challenges from Congress and federal courts. The ACA was designed to increase health insurance quality and affordability, expanding insurance coverage and reducing the costs of healthcare. According to a 2014 study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Affordable Care Act likely prevented an estimated 50,000 preventable patient deaths between 2010 to 2013. (ahrq.gov)

5. Reduction of Veteran Homelessness

Officials of the Obama Administration have said that throughout his tenure, veteran homelessness has been cut by 36 percent and, they have claimed his administration has made progress in creating programs for better care in communities nationwide. (whitehouse.gov) The 2016 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, a representation of homelessness on a given night in America, showed that there has been a  17 percent decrease in Veteran homelessness since 2015—quadruple the previous year’s rate of decline. (portal.hud.gov)

6. Repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”

The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Act (DADT), which lasted from 1994-2011, prohibited any homosexual or bisexual member of the United States armed forces from disclosing his/her sexual orientation or speaking of any homosexual relationships—including marriages—while serving. When the DADT ended in 2011, openly LGBT+ military members have been able to serve with the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. The president posted this celebratory message on his Facebook page, five years after the act was repealed: Today, Americans can serve the country they love no matter who they love, and openly gay, lesbian and bisexual men and women in uniform make our military stronger and America safer. In the last five years, we’ve kept fighting to expand the promise of equality to LGBT Americans.” 

7. Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling

After the marriage equality ruling on June 26, 2015, the White House was lit up to represent the gay pride flag. Photo courtesy of flickr.com

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court determined that the fundamental right to marry should be guaranteed to same-sex couples, which resulted in the 13 states that had previously not recognized same-sex marriage being required hand out marriage licenses to LGBT+ couples. This ruling was viewed as a huge success both by people in the LGBT+ community and the community’s supporters. 

8. Protection of Planned Parenthood

The Obama Administration made strides toward protecting Planned Parenthood’s federal funding after Republicans in Congress threatened to cut off the organization’s federal funding. In December 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services finalized a regulation that claimed states who award federally-funded grants for women’s health programs cannot discriminate against Planned Parenthood. In a written release statement, President of Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards said, “President Obama has cemented his legacy as a champion for women’s health. This rule protects birth control, cancer screenings, [sexually transmitted infection] testing and treatment and other health care for millions of people.”