“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths -- 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; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”
When I heard Barack Obama, the President of the United States of America, utter those amazing words during his second inauguration speech on MLK Day, I choked up with pride and applauded wildly.
“Right on,” I shouted at the TV.
My dogs, Louie and Lucy, slumbering on the oriental rugs in the living room, started barking because their daddy was suddenly so enthusiastic and happy.
Three days later, I’m still excited about that incredible speech to the nation. “Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall” is sure to go down in history as a memorable catch-phrase that ties together three great movements – the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 that kicked off women’s suffrage; the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 at the height of the Civil Rights protests by African-Americans; and Stonewall Riots in 1969 that inspired gay liberation.
For the first time in American history, a U.S. President has mentioned gay and Stonewall in an inaugural speech. Obama went one step farther, he encouraged the nation to give LGBT Americans the same rights that straight Americans enjoy, not only to marriage but also to the laws that discriminate against us.
"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."
In one beautifully constructed sentence, Obama acknowledges that LGBT Americans are treated as second-class citizens, denied basic human rights that are guaranteed by our Constitution and already enjoyed by straight Americans, and deserve to be treated equally.
Imagine, if you will, the profound impact of Obama’s words on LGBT youth who are struggling with identity or coming out or bullying. How empowering those words will be!
Heading into his final four years, Obama doesn’t have to worry about re-election and his speech clearly showed that he believes that he has a mandate from voters to pursue his progressive vision. After a rough first term during which Obama was severely hampered by a “Do-Nothing” Congress and a Republican Party that vowed to take him down to prevent his re-election (that worked out well, didn't it, GOP?), the President seems determined to be more forceful and less compromising over the next four years. His speech was liberal in tone, apparently crafted to match the mood of the voters who re-elected him.
Obama’s next step should be to have the Justice Department file a “friend of the court” brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, declaring with all the power and force of The White House, that the Administration will not support LGBT discrimination in any form. This brief could apply to the two high-profile cases before it in late March: the California Proposition 8 case and the DOMA case involving Edith “Edy” Windsor.
LGBT Americans will be watching closely to see if Obama makes his visionary words come true. And Obama should do just that: After all, LGBT voters proved to be ultra crucial to Obama's re-election.
Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at email@example.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.