As American flags waved proudly decorating the early afternoon sky surrounding the U.S. Capitol building on the Nation Mall, President Barack Obama stood in front of the face of diversity and echoed history. Just after being sworn in for his second term today, Obama delivered a speech that referenced the hope of ancestors, the dreams of today and the inspiration of a better tomorrow. January 21, 2013, on a day that also celebrates the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr, Obama influenced a push towards equality for all people, and in the first time at any inauguration speech, he referred to the importance of equal rights for gay people.
President Obama referenced to women’s rights, the voting rights movement and the Stonewall riots of 1969, the New York gay activist movement that was born when a group of gay New Yorkers made a stand against raiding police officers at a popular gay bar called the Stonewall Inn. It was a turning point in the gay rights movement but still today many in the LGBT community are continuing the fight to not only obtain equal rights, but to have their rights respected. Today, during Obama’s speech, was a refreshing feeling of inclusion as the president echoed these words:
“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. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.”
Today was the first time sexual orientation was referred to by any president in an inaugural address but we are also among times where the fight for gay rights is at its height. CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who made his sexuality public in 2012, said that “for a president who only recently, to use his word, evolved on the issue of same-sex marriage, he made very forceful statements in this inaugural address, actually, historic statements on equal right for gay and lesbian Americans.”
By referencing the Stonewall riots, Obama gave symbolism to new beginnings powered by a past determination that stood up for human rights. He recognized each set of eyes that stared back at him and shared their voice, giving them an importance no matter what race, gender or sexual orientation. For many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered individuals, that recognition of being someone who matters is the reward of standing tall with pride.