When President Barack Obama noted “our gay brothers and sisters” and their struggle for civil rights in his inaugural speech on Monday, he was making history: He was the first president to cite the LGBT community during the keynote presidential address.
An NBC News review of past presidential inaugural speeches turned up no prior mentions of gays and lesbians, though Obama and former President Bill Clinton did note the struggle for gay rights — primarily the bid to serve openly in the military — in State of the Union speeches.
“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,” Obama said Monday.
The president’s comments drew praise from LGBT rights groups and advocates.
One, columnist Dan Savage, wrote: “Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall – thank you for that, Mr. President.”
Frez Sainz, of the Human Rights Campaign, said: “It’s a totally different game when the president of the United States is on your side … this president has said things about LGBT people that many of our own families are either not able or not willing to say.”
But Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which has spearheaded votes banning gay marriage in many states, took exception to Obama linking the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City — which launched the gay rights movement — to the Selma voting rights march in the Civil Rights era.
“Same-sex marriage is not a civil right,” he said, noting that millions of Americans had voted to ban it. “To try and compare in any way the attempt to redefine marriage with the Civil Rights movement is simply false. I think that the president’s forgetting about the most important group affected by this and their civil rights and that’s children having the civil right to have both a mom and a dad.”
Obama has been incorporating LGBT issues more in his speeches and public addresses since he came out in support of same-sex marriage last May, Sainz said. He had used the “Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall” line in a May 14, 2012, address to graduating students at the Barnard College Commencement Ceremony in New York.
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