The president noted that the “most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal” should continue to guide the country, as it did past generations through “Seneca Falls, and Selma and Stonewall.” Yes, the alliteration was subtly superb — but the casual linkage among the fights for equal rights for women and African Americans and the birth of the modern LGBT-rights movement at Stonewall speaks volumes.
For the nation’s first African-American president to equate the civil-rights movement of the 1960s with the pursuit of LGBT equality is immeasurably significant. The correlation between the two has long been a source of debate, even among some LGBT-supportive African-Americans, so for Obama to draw comparisons among them on such an international stage bodes well for how unapologetic his commitment to LGBT rights will be in his second term. Many non-LGBT Americans may not even know what Stonewall is — its reference may have been a learning moment for them, and a deeply personal and profound one for those whose work has been guided by the pioneers at Stonewall.
The president went on to say that it is now our responsibility to carry on the work started in those early movements, work that won’t be complete until women earn equal pay, until immigrants are afforded equal opportunities, until young people of all socioeconomic backgrounds have an equal shot at a safe upbringing, until everyone is given equal access to voting booths — and “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.”
Again, Obama made the case for LGBT equality by posturing that gays and lesbians are similarly disenfranchised as women, immigrants and other minority communities. As opposed to making a separate reference to gays and lesbians as a standalone group deserving of its rights, the president cleverly weaved them into the fabric of “all Americans” deserving of rights.
As the president’s address described, no longer is the LGBT community one on the outside, fighting to be recognized as deserving of rights. Because of the work that began at Stonewall, the community has moved into the next realm, where equal rights for LGBTs are moving away from a question and closer to a certitude. When the leader of the free world acknowledges that, yes, LGBTs deserve rights — and commits to the next step of achieving them — the future of our country looks bright.