Obama mentions gay rights in inauguration speech

By on January 30, 2013

In his second inauguration speech, President Obama made history as the first president to use the word “gay” in his speech, in reference to the homosexual community and its marriage rights. The President proclaimed that America’s “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.”

US Magazine

US Magazine

It’s about time. Though the United States was founded under the belief that “all men are created equal” and endowed with “certain unalienable rights,” the road to equality for all has been long and arduous. It took 89 years since the founding of the nation to abolish slavery, another one hundred years for African Americans to achieve full equality under the law, and another 20-30 years for women to secure equal treatment in the workspace, on reproductive rights, and other discrimination issues.

We are far from reaching the end of the road to equality. In recent years, the attention has shifted towards gay rights. Though, unlike the discrimination that African Americans and women have faced, discrimination against members of the LGBT community is rampant in our society. The discrimination is so strong that we have even managed to change both the denotation of the word “gay” and attach to it a highly negative connotation.

In the more progressive and open-minded states, such as Washington and Massachusetts, great strides have already been made on this issue in the form of legal recognition of same-sex marriage. However, these improvements are limited on the state level, and the vast majority of states have some sort of legislation barring gay couples from the same rights as heterosexual couples.

By taking the issue to the national level, President Obama is tackling gay rights similar to how the civil rights issue was tackled in the ‘60s. As it was then, when left to their own devices, only the liberal states would willingly take action to provide equal rights. The rest cling on to an outdated and unjust ideal. Sweeping changes were made only when the issue was addressed on a national level. I greatly admire the President’s willingness to put the issue of gay rights on center stage.
Of course, much has to be done to turn a promise into reality. Not only do we have to change our laws, we must also influence society in a way that they see people of a different sexual orientation as equals. A mistrust of people different from the norm is deeply entrenched in society. The backward idea that there is something morally wrong with homosexuality simply must be dispelled. Laws are powerless if society does not follow them. Only when the nation as a whole accepts gay community as equals will progress manifest itself.

Tianjlao Zhang
Staff Writer
tzhangz@uab.edu

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