Chicago gay rights advocates cheer Obama's historic inauguration speech

Mon. January 21, 2013 7:07 PM by News Staff

president obama takes the oath of office at the u.s. capitol

photo credit //

Obama mentions gay marriage and Stonewall in inauguration speech

President Barack Obama Monday became the first president ever to make mention of gay rights in an inaugural speech when he vowed to fight for equal rights for "our gay brothers and sisters."

"The President clearly and without ambiguity affirmed that all of us are created equal," long time gay rights activist Rick Garcia told immediately after the the President's historic speech from the U.S. Capitol.

Garcia along with local and national gay rights groups applauded Obama for what they hope signals a new push for gay rights in his second term.

"The importance of President Obama's second inaugural address to the American people, and specifically LGBT Americans, cannot be understated," said Anthony Martinez, Executive Director of The Civil Rights Agenda.

"It was both refreshing and empowering to hear the President of the United States of America affirm LGBT people in his speech today, said Frank Walker, CEO of National Youth Pride Services, a leadership and development program for Black LGBT Youth. "We know and believe that no one is truly free until all are free and we look forward to the steps the President will make in his upcoming term."

Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, told, "In multiple ways, President Obama underscored today during his Inauguration that his vision for America includes full recognition of LGBT Americans. He reminded us that the Stonewall riots are among the defining struggles for the American promise, and he admonished that if we are created equal then our laws must respect that natural equality."

Obama drew a parallel between the Stonewall riots in June 1969, which is widely seen as sparking the gay right movement, and other landmark movements such as the Seneca Falls convention in 1848 and the civil rights battle in Selma, Alabama.

"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.

"It is now our generation's task to carry on what [our nation's] 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," said Obama.

During his first term, Obama was not always so outspoken on gay rights. Just last year the president said he had "evolved" on the issue of gay marriage.

"His position months ago on equal marriage rights was a sea change in the discussion," said Garcia. "Today's message was a tsunami."

Cherkasov called the President's address "a roadmap for his presidency" and said the message was a call to action. "If we believe in that vision, then we must work to make it a reality," he said. "Today, we reflect and celebrate. But tomorrow, we return to the urgent work of fighting for full LGBT equality."

With marriage equality legislation now in the General Assembly, Illinois could potentially become the tenth state to legalize gay marriage.

National gay rights groups react to Obama's inauguration speech

Evan Wolfson, president and founder of Freedom to Marry, issued a statement, "In his second Inaugural today, President Obama traced the moral arc from Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall, and rightly exalted the struggle for the freedom to marry as part of America's moral commitment to equality, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," Wolfson said in a statement. "Freedom to Marry applauds our president and the moral leadership he has shown, the moral leadership we will continue to need until all Americans, all loving couples, all families, can share fully in the American promise we celebrate on Inauguration Day."

Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said, "By lifting up the lives of LGBT families for the very first time in an inaugural address, President Obama sent a clear message to LGBT young people from the Gulf Coast to the Rocky Mountains that this country's leaders will fight for them until equality is the law of the land."

Related: Text of President Barack Obama's Inauguration Speech, as prepared for delivery