NBA player Jason Collins, who last year became one of the first athletes in any major sport to declare that he is gay, will sit in First Lady Michelle Obama’s box during Tuesday’s State of the Union address, in the latest sign of the strong support of gay rights from the Obamas.
Administration officials announced Monday that Collins would join a group that includes White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, Kathy Hollowell-Makle, who was the 2013 teacher of the year in Washington D.C., and Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman, two runners who survived the attack at the Boston Marathon. Other guests are likely to announced before the speech.
Seating specific people in the First Lady’s box is a long tradition that offers a president the chance to both honor those individuals and highlight whatever cause they are associated with.
So Collins’ inclusion is no surprise. The Obama administration has taken a series of steps to show support for gay Americans, including ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for the military, President Obama announcing his personal support of same-sex unions and the administration choosing, in a Supreme Court case, not to support the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which had defined marriage as between a man and a woman. And when Collins made his announcement last April, President Obama personally called Collins to praise him.