News Column

For Gay Citizens, a Watershed Moment

Jan. 22, 2013

Catalina Camia, USA TODAY

President Obama's references to same-sex marriage and the Stonewall riots in his inauguration speech were hailed by gay men and lesbians, who view them as a watershed in their quest for civil rights.

It is believed to be the first time that an inaugural address discussed both same-sex marriage and gay rights.

Obama's mention of Stonewall -- a New York City bar that was the scene of violent clashes between police and gay people in 1969 -- stood out Monday. The president equated Stonewall to Seneca Falls, home of the women's rights movement, and Selma, the town in Alabama where civil rights supporters were beaten in 1965 as they marched for voting rights.

"Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law," Obama said.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said it was "completely gratifying" to hear Obama's words.

"What this president is doing is he is setting the bar higher -- not for himself but for all of America," Sainz said. "When he is saying that our march towards freedom will not end until marriage equality is the law of the land. It makes it very, very hard for those dismissive of equality to be seen as rational actors now."

Not everyone agreed.

Penny Young Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, said she was surprised at the president's "complete silence on the religious freedom of those who believe marriage is a sacred institution created by God, between one man and one woman."

"Today, President Obama made history with a clear and passionate declaration of the fundamental rights of LGBT Americans, and all Americans," said Allyson Robinson, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, one of the groups that pushed for repeal of the military policy.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said in a statement that her organization agreed wholeheartedly with Obama's words in his inauguration speech.

"It's now time for the president -- and for all of us -- to finish the job of ensuring that every American gets a fair shake," Carey said. "President Obama has repeatedly shown he is willing to fight for us. We have another four years to keep the momentum going."

(c) Copyright 2013 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013