January 22, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Gray: Obama to ‘vocally’ back gay marriage
Vincent Gray, Transgender Remembrance Day, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LGBT advocates and others who gathered inside the Wilson building in D.C. on Monday to watch President Obama’s second inauguration applauded his inaugural address.

Mayor Vincent Gray told the Washington Blade shortly after the president delivered his speech that he expects him to be “vocally supportive of marriage equality for the next four years.” Alexandra Beninda, a transgender member of the D.C. Commission on Human Rights, said she welcomed Obama’s reference to marriage rights for same-sex couples, gays and lesbians, immigration and other issues.

“He hit on a number of good issues,” she told the Blade as she sat in an office overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue while awaiting the inaugural parade to begin.

When asked to comment on the lack of trans-specific references in Obama’s speech, Beninda noted an LGBT-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and other issues remain “very important.” She said she does not expect Congress to act on the long-stalled measure during the president’s second term. Beninda added, however, she does not rule out the possibility of Obama issuing an executive order that would bar employers from firing their employees based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“He doesn’t have to worry about how things are going to look in terms of getting re-elected and getting various people on his side,” she said. “In a second term, presidents are usually looking for building their legacy and how they’re going to be looked at in the long run. They are more inclined to want to get major accomplishments that they can. I think certainly things like ENDA should be on the forefront.”

Gray and others also noted the White House’s decision to place D.C. license plates with the “Taxation Without Representation” slogan onto the presidential limousine.

“It’s coming together, but we also know that even with the license plates on we have a long distance to travel,” the mayor said in response to a question WTOP reporter Mark Segraves asked about whether the move would bolster D.C. statehood efforts. “I hope that it symbolizes that he [Obama] intends to be more active on issues affecting the District and I think a great place for him to signal that further would be in the State of the Union speech.”

Jeffrey Richardson, the mayor’s former LGBT liaison who now directs Gray’s Office of Volunteerism that is also known as Serve D.C., agreed.

“It’s just exciting to think about democracy in action,” he told the Blade just before Obama arrived at the U.S. Capitol. “Hopefully that will translate to some democracy in action for us in the District in ending our lack of representation.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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