At no point was President Obama’s refrain of “We the people” in his second inaugural more powerful than when he invoked it to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
We the people declare today that the most evident of truth that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall …
The women’s rights movement got started in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848. The black civil rights movement gripped the nation’s consciousness in Selma, Ala., in 1965. And the modern gay rights movement got its start on June 28, 1969, when the gay patrons of the Stonewall Bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village rioted against police harassment.
Obama called those warriors for equality and inclusion “pioneers.” And he said, “It is now our generation’s task to carry on” what they began. He called it a journey. One that is long, but one that won’t be complete without lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender Americans.
Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
Obama has not been shy about talking inclusively about gays and lesbians. But his words, said with confidence and conviction from that spot on this day go well beyond what he or any president before him has ever done. Obama listed Stonewall among this country’s great social movements. And his call for marriage equality using the megaphone of an inaugural address with its global audience will be remembered as a pivotal moment in the gay rights movement.
The power of what Obama did today was eloquently summed up by my friend Jeffrey Martin in Illinois. “Amazing to hear gay people recognized so much, so clearly, so naturally throughout the ceremony,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Amazing. I feel more fully American today. Not completely yet, but we are moving closer.”
More fully American. I felt that as an African American on the night Obama was elected. And on the day he was inaugurated in 2009. Now imagine how I and other gays feel today. The president of the United States used an inaugural address to acknowledge and affirm our place as a gay people in the history and ongoing story of America. We have indeed moved closer to being fully American.
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