A few reactions from around the web to President Obama's historic inaugural gay rights statements:
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….
…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.
The causes of gay Americans and black Americans haven’t always existed in perfect harmony, and that context is critical for appreciating Obama’s reference to Stonewall alongside Selma. Blacks have sometimes questioned gays’ use of “civil rights” to describe their own movement, and have noted that the historical experiences of the two groups aren’t at all identical. Obama moved beyond that, focusing on the shared aspirations of all minorities. It was a big-hearted, deliberate, compelling decision.
He went on, seconds later, to explicitly mention “gay” Americans, saying a word never before uttered in inaugural remarks. What shocked me most about that was how un-shocking it was…
…Four years ago the inaugural invocation was given by a pastor with a record of antigay positions and remarks. This year, a similar assignment was withdrawn from a pastor with a comparable record, once it came to light. What’s more, an openly gay man was chosen to be the inaugural poet, and in news coverage of his biography, his parents’ exile from Cuba drew more attention than his sexual orientation. That’s how far we’ve come.
Obama included these references rightly in the context of other struggles. This is not about identity politics but human and civic equality that goes far beyond the gay experience. But sometimes you have to remember how far we have come, with this man pushed relentlessly forward by our pressure and by our conversations with each other. On the weekend we celebrate the memory of the assassinated Dr King, we also re-elect the country's black president, who also happens to be finally embracing the civil rights cause of his time and ours'.
So forgive me genuflecting a little before this moment – but I didn't think I'd ever live to see it. I didn't just see it, but heard and felt it – and saw in this morning and early afternoon a tableau of democratic diversity that was indeed, to my mind, a city on a hill, deeply shifting, in its symbolism and multicultural dynamism, the "opinion of mankind" and our global future.
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.”
He lifted us up from a contentious issue to a civil rights struggle
that must be won in order for the Declaration of Independence to have
meaning. He embraced our right to love and marry.
Those who have doubts about his commitment to our epic struggle,
clearly don't want to hear his powerful and inclusive words that were
heard in every home around the world. Most importantly, the words were
heard by the United States Supreme Court Justices sitting right behind
…Today was America's day with everyone included and no person left behind.
From the struggles of young immigrants wanting an education, to women
desiring equal pay for equal work, to the poor desiring income to feed
the children and to those who simply aspire to be a new greatness…this
was their day too.
Not only was this a call to end discrimination, but an unambiguous
argument for the recognition of same-sex marriage across the country.
For a President who announced his support for marriage equality less
than a year ago, after more reluctance (and suggestions about what could
be left to the states) than many would have liked, this was a bold
declaration from perhaps the boldest platform of all.
There's much pressure on the president to deliver on a variety of equality issues and match his words with actions. He's still not signed an executive order that would ban federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people. The Justice Department has not filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Prop 8 case before the Supreme Court. The military is still not equal in the aftermath of "don't ask, don't tell' repeal, with no ban on discrimination against gays in the armed forces, and there's fear that Obama's Defense Secretary nominee, former Nebraska GOP Senator Chuck Hagel, will not take up the issue with force.
By putting full equality and marriage rights in such a defining speech, however, and making history in the process, as the first president to refer to the struggle for gay equality in his inaugural address, President Obama has laid out a promise in perhaps the most powerful way he could.