(WASHINGTON) — President Obama made history in his inaugural address Monday, mentioning the word “gay” and the issue of gay rights for the first time in a speech at the presidential swearing-in.
“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 in his address on the Capitol steps after his swearing-in.
Obama also mentioned the word Stonewall when citing milestones of the civil right struggle. It was a reference to a riot and subsequent protests over a police raid in June 1969 of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The president mentioned it along with the first women’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848 and the civil rights march in Selma, Ala., in 1965.
“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,” Obama said.
Brian Ellner, who led the successful campaign to make same-sex marriage legal in New York state, called the speech “historic.”
“The president placed the fight for gay equality alongside the struggles for women’s equality and civil rights. He made it clear that he would continue to fight for marriage equality because all love is equal,” Ellner said.
He said Obama’s statement “will help current efforts to win [gay] marriage in Minnesota, Rhode Island, Delaware, Illinois and even in France. It will no doubt impact the Supreme court who will soon be hearing two key marriage cases. “
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, one of the largest gay rights organizations, also applauded the president mentioning gay rights.
“We were honored that the president included Stonewall among the historic events in American history that have made our union stronger,” Griffin said.
Allyson Robinson, the executive director of Out-Serve SLDN, the association of actively serving gay and lesbian military personnel, said the president “made history with a clear and passionate declaration of the fundamental rights of LGBT Americans, and all Americans.”
Opponents of gay rights and same-sex marriage were not as pleased with the president’s address. Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow for policy studies at the conservative Family Research Council, said he agrees with the president “that all people are created equal by God and all people should be treated equally under the law… But the president is implying that some people are created or born gay and I do not believe the evidence supports.”
“In reference to marriage,” Sprigg told ABC News, “we have many loving relationships with family members, but we do not call them marriage. Marriage serves a public interest not just a private interest. … I think [Obama’s] reference to the love we commit to one another was a clear, but albeit veiled, reference to the issue of same-sex marriage.”
Penny Nance, the CEO and president of Concerned Women for America, said the president’s comments were “appalling.”
“More surprising than the president’s support for gay rights in his second inaugural address, was his complete silence on the religious freedom of those who believe marriage is a sacred institution created by God, between one man and one woman,” Nance said in a statement. “As more and more pastors and people of faith are forced into abandoning their principles if they are to be engaged in the public square, as happened with the benediction at that very ceremony, it is appalling for the president to side with those who want to trample on our most cherished rights.”
Nance is referring to Rev. Louie Giglio of the Passion City Church in Georgia, who was initially supposed to give the benediction at the inauguration. He backed out after he was heavily criticized for anti-gay comments and actions he made in the mid-1990s.
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