For 1st time, Gay Rights Get Shoutout In Inaugural Speech
NBCNEWS.COM - When President Barack Obama noted "our gay brothers and sisters" and
their struggle for civil rights in his inaugural speech on Monday, he
was making history: He was the first president to cite the LGBT
community during the keynote presidential address.
An NBC News
review of past presidential inaugural speeches turned up no prior
mentions of gays and lesbians, though Obama and former President Bill
Clinton did note the struggle for gay rights -- primarily the bid to
serve openly in the military -- in State of the Union speeches.
"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 said Monday.
The president's comments drew praise from LGBT rights groups and advocates.
One, columnist Dan Savage, wrote: "Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall - thank you for that, Mr. President."
Sainz, of the Human Rights Campaign, said: "It's a totally different
game when the president of the United States is on your side … this
president has said things about LGBT people that many of our own
families are either not able or not willing to say."
Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which has
spearheaded votes banning gay marriage in many states, took exception to
Obama linking the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City -- which
launched the gay rights movement -- to the Selma voting rights march in
the Civil Rights era.
"Same-sex marriage is not a civil right," he said, noting that
millions of Americans had voted to ban it. "To try and compare in any
way the attempt to redefine marriage with the Civil Rights movement is
simply false. I think that the president's forgetting about the most
important group affected by this and their civil rights and that's
children having the civil right to have both a mom and a dad."
has been incorporating LGBT issues more in his speeches and public
addresses since he came out in support of same-sex marriage last May,
Sainz said. He had used the "Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall"
line in a May 14, 2012, address to graduating students at the Barnard
College Commencement Ceremony in New York.
He has also cited gay
rights in at least three State of the Union addresses: In 2010, he used
it to launch his bid to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell"
policy under which openly-gay and lesbian members of the armed forces
could be kicked out of the services because of their sexuality; and in
2011, he noted the ending of that policy in the coming year. In 2012,
he again said sexuality was not a barrier to anyone serving in the
Clinton made a single mention of the LGBT community in his 2000 State
of the Union address, when he cited the Matthew Shepard case. Shephard,
21, was killed in Wyoming in October 1998 by two men who kidnapped him,
beat him and left him tied to a split-rail fence because he was gay.
Clinton, who shepherded "don't ask, don't tell" through Congress, did
not mention the LGBT community in his inaugural speeches.
weren't at that point in history, we just weren't there yet," Sainz
said, adding that "the president's speech is definitely reflective of
the times we are in."
Those times include upcoming U.S. Supreme
Court arguments over same-sex marriage and legislative battles in
Illinois and Rhode Island over whether gays and lesbians can wed. The
high court will also hear a case challenging a federal law that
bans providing benefits to federal workers whose spouses are of the same
"The importance of those sentences (said by Obama) are that our fight is still very much ahead of us," Sainz said.
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