Obama's inaugural speech heartens gay marriage supporters

Wed. January 23, 2013 12:26 PM by Carlos Santoscoy

Washington, D.C. - President Barack Obama's nod to gay marriage in his inaugural address is seen as a positive sign that he will soon support the issue in the Supreme Court.

The mention itself was historic, marking the first time a president has addressed gay rights in an inauguration speech.

Speaking just a few feet from Supreme Court justices who will consider the issue in March, Obama included Stonewall, the Greenwich Village bar where gay men and drag queens confronted police, triggering the modern gay rights movement, alongside Seneca Falls and Selma.

"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," Obama said. "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."

Next month, the White House will decide whether to support two cases headed to the Supreme Court. The Justice Department has said the decision to support the cases will be made by administration officials. The department could decide against taking part in the cases.

One of the cases is Hollingsworth vs. Perry, which seeks to declare unconstitutional Proposition 8, California's 2008 voter-approved constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples. Passage of Proposition 8 put an end to the weddings of gay couples taking place in the state after the California Supreme Court legalized such unions.

Speaking to The Los Angeles Times, Theodore Olson, lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the president sounded ready to back the case.

"I was very gratified to hear the president state in clear and unambiguous language that our gay and lesbian citizens must be treated equally under the law," Olson told the paper, "and that their loving relationships must be treated equally as well. That can only mean one thing: equality under the Constitution."

Evan Wolfson, president and founder of Freedom to Marry, noted that the president gave an inaugural speech, "not a legal brief," and "we will see over the next several weeks exactly what position the Justice Department takes."

He added: "I am confident the president knows that the Constitution requires equality in the freedom to marry."

Related: Chicago gay rights advocates cheer Obama's historic inauguration speech

Editorial: "Seneca Falls, Selma & Stonewall": LGBT rights are civil rights

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