President Barack Obama added a historic first mention of gay rights in his inauguration speech today. A quick search of the speeches ranging from Obama’s 2008 address to Jimmy Carter’s in 1977 contain no mention.
Here’s the paragraph in his speech:
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. 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 a speech that focused on themes of equality, Obama made special mention of the Stonewall gay-rights riots, equating them with watershed moments in the equal-rights struggles of blacks and women. In 1969, the New York City bar Stonewall became synonymous with the birth of the gay-rights movement after a police raid targeting gays led to violent clashes.
Obama compared Stonewall to Seneca Falls — home to the first women’s rights convention in 1848 — and Selma, the town in Alabama where civil-rights supporters were beaten in 1965 during voting-rights marches.
“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,” he said.
Obama’s bold pronouncement comes in a year during which the Supreme Court is scheduled to decide on two high-profile cases involving gay marriage. The Court will hear arguments on March 26 and 27 on legal challenges to the federal defence of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.
In his speech, Obama added a nod to some of the other goals he intends to pursue in a second-term agenda — voting rights, immigration reform, and gun control:
Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.
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