Connect with us

National

Obama makes history at start of second term

In first, president includes gay references in address

Published

on

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, inauguration 2013, gay news, Washington Blade
Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, inauguration 2013, gay news, Washington Blade

President Obama made history by including gays and lesbians in his 2013 inaugural address in two references. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Marking the official start of his second term, President Obama on Monday included for the first-time ever explicit references to the LGBT community in a presidential inaugural speech — a powerful statement because of the symbolic nature of the widely watched speech as a reflection of the American spirit.

Following his swearing-in by Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court John Roberts, Obama delivered the speech, which included many nods to his progressive base, including mentions of climate change, immigration reform in addition to a reaffirmation of the president’s earlier stated support for marriage equality.

“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.

Obama made another reference to the LGBT community when he included a mention of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, which are seen as the start of the modern LGBT rights movement.

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth,” Obama said.

inauguration 2013, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An estimated crowd of at least 500,000 filled the National Mall to hear Obama’s speech. Spectators were bundled in coats and hats as they braved the cold winter temperatures. Still, the weather was more forgiving than during Obama’s 2009 inauguration in which bitter cold chilled those in attendance to the bone.

One LGBT advocate in attendance was Brenda “Sue” Fulton, a lesbian who serves on the board of the LGBT military group OutServe-SLDN. The newly married graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point said she was quite moved by Obama’s LGBT inclusion in the speech.

“When he went on to talk about marriage equality for ‘our gay brothers and sisters,’ four lovely young men in front of us cheered at the top of their lungs,” Fulton said. “I admit that I teared up. We’ve come so far this past four years; I can see all those young people in military uniforms on the platform and all around, and know that not only are some of them gay, but the others know it, and support them.”

Mentions of the LGBT community were part of a larger message in which Obama chose to set the tone for his second term by recalling past challenges the nation has overcome and issuing a call to come together to face the challenges of the present day.

“But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action,” Obama said. “Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.”

No previous president has mentioned LGBT people during an inaugural address. In 2009, Obama didn’t mention the LGBT community despite promising a commitment to LGBT rights over the course of his first presidential campaign. Instead, Obama at the time made a reference to civil rights in general, saying the nation has “tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation” and “as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself.”

John Aravosis, editor of AMERICAblog, said he was “impressed” with the way Obama reaffirmed support for the LGBT community and said it could have an impact on the gay-related cases to come before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“In addition to mentioning marriage equality, an African-American president put Stonewall alongside Selma in one of the most important speeches of his presidency,” Aravosis said. “I think that’s hugely significant culturally and politically, and possibly legally as well – the Supreme Court was sitting right there, and they look to the culture and politics when considering decisions on major social issues, like the upcoming marriage cases. This didn’t hurt.”

But LGBT-inclusiveness at the celebration wasn’t just limited to mentions in the widely anticipated speech. Those who attended on the inaugural platform as Obama was sworn into office and delivered his speech included high-profile members of the LGBT community such as Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin and Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop consecrated in the Episcopal Church.

“Today, the POTUS moved beyond merely mentioning the existence of our community, to express his commitment to our full citizenship and respect for our love,” Robinson said. “There is no way to overstate the importance of his words and witness to our lives and our love. No, we haven’t ‘arrived,’ but we sure have come a long way down this road!  Amazing!”

Other speakers at the event made were gay-affirming in one way or another. The pastor who delivered the closing benediction for the service, Rev. Luis Leon, an Episcopal priest with the D.C.-based St. John’s Church, called for a blessing on all people — including whether they be “gay or straight” — in his closing remarks.

Luis Leon, Episcopal Church, gay news, Washington Blade, inauguration 2013

Rev. Luis Leon (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“With the blessing of your blessing we will see that we are created in your image, whether brown, black or white, male or female, first generation or immigrant American, or daughter of the American Revolution, gay or straight, rich or poor,” said León.

Leon, who also delivered the benediction at former President George W. Bush’s inaugural in 2005, was a replacement for Pastor Louie Giglio of the Georgia-based Passion City Church, who withdrew from the role after the blog ThinkProgress revealed that he delivered a virulently anti-gay sermon in the 1990s. In contrast, Leon was one of the religious figures who helped in the 2009 push to legalize same-sex marriage in D.C.

Gay inclusion during the festivities also came in the form of the openly gay inaugural poet — the nationally acclaimed Richard Blanco — who recited a poem titled, “One Today,” which highlights unity despite differences among individuals in America.

“All of us as vital as the one light we move through, the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day: equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined, the ‘I have a dream’ we keep dreaming, or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain the empty desks of twenty children marked absent today, and forever,” Blanco read.

In a statement, HRC’s Griffin commended Obama for the LGBT-inclusion in his speech and emphasized the importance of sending such a message in an inaugural address. HRC didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up request for comment on whether the organization helped Obama with the LGBT portions of the speech.

“By lifting up the lives of LGBT families for the very first time in an inaugural address, President Obama sent a clear message to LGBT young people from the Gulf Coast to the Rocky Mountains that this country’s leaders will fight for them until equality is the law of the land,” Griffin said. “As the merits of marriage equality come up for debate from state houses to the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court, and a broad majority of Americans are standing up for liberty and fairness, the President’s unequivocal support for equality is a clarion call that all Americans should receive with celebration.”

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court to consider challenge to Tenn. law challenging gender-affirming case for minors

Volunteer State lawmakers approved ban in 2023

Published

on

U.S. Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider a challenge to a Tennessee law that bans health care providers from offering gender-affirming care to transgender minors.

Tennessee lawmakers approved the law in 2023.

A federal judge in Nashville issued a temporary injunction against portions of the statute before it was to have taken effect on July 1, 2023. The 6th U.S. U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last September rejected a request to block the law the Justice Department has also challenged.

“The future of countless transgender youth in this and future generations rests on this court adhering to the facts, the Constitution, and its own modern precedent,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBTQ and HIV Project, on Monday in a press release. “These bans represent a dangerous and discriminatory affront to the well-being of transgender youth across the country and their constitutional right to equal protection under the law. They are the result of an openly political effort to wage war on a marginalized group and our most fundamental freedoms.” 

“We want transgender people and their families across the country to know we will spare nothing in our defense of you, your loved ones, and your right to decide whether to get this medical care,” added Strangio.

The Associated Press reported Tennessee is among the more than two dozen states that have enacted laws that either restrict or ban gender-affirming care for trans minors.

The ACLU notes the Supreme Court “is not expected to hear arguments” in the case until the fall.

Continue Reading

The White House

EXCLUSIVE: Jill Biden to host White House Pride celebration

Event to take place on June 26

Published

on

First lady Jill Biden (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

First lady Jill Biden will host the White House Pride Month celebration on June 26, according to a press release previewed by the Washington Blade.

The party on the South Lawn will also feature a performance by singer, songwriter, actress, and record producer Deborah Cox and musical selections by DJ Trifle.

This year’s event comes on Equality Day this year, which honors the anniversaries of three landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions that expanded rights and protections for LGBTQ Americans: Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which struck down sodomy laws, United States v. Windsor (2013), which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which made marriage equality the law of the land.

The White House highlighted some of the “historic action” taken by President Joe Biden to “advance LGBTQ+ equality for the community,” including:

  • Signing into law the landmark Respect for Marriage Act which protects the rights of same-sex and interracial couples;
  • Appointing a historic number of LGBTQI+ and transgender appointees, including the first transgender American to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate;
  • Directing all federal agencies to strengthen civil rights protections on the basis of gender identity, resulting in agencies working to strengthen protections in housing, health care, education, employment, the criminal justice system, nutrition programs, and more;
  • Reversing the ban on open service by transgender members of the military;
  • Signing an executive order focused on LGBTQI+ children and families that directs agencies to address the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy” and finalized rule-making that ends disparities that LGBTQI+ children and parents face in the child welfare and foster care system and protects against disparities in health care; and
  • President Biden continues to call on Congress to pass the Equality Act to enshrine civil rights protections for LGBTQI+ Americans in federal law.

Last year, the president and the first lady hosted the celebration, which was the largest Pride event ever held at the White House.

Continue Reading

National

65% of Black Americans support Black LGBTQ rights: survey

Results show 40% have LGBTQ family member

Published

on

(Logo courtesy of the NBJC)

The National Black Justice Coalition, a D.C.-based LGBTQ advocacy organization, announced on June 19 that it commissioned what it believes to be a first-of-its-kind national survey of Black people in the United States in which 65 percent said they consider themselves “supporters of Black LGBTQ+ people and rights,” with 57 percent of the supporters saying they were “churchgoers.”

In a press release describing the findings of the survey, NBJC said it commissioned the research firm HIT Strategies to conduct the survey with support from five other national LGBTQ organizations – the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Family Equality, and GLSEN.

“One of the first surveys of its kind, explicitly sampling Black people (1,300 participants) on Black LGBTQ+ people and issues – including an oversampling of Black LGBTQ+ participants to provide a more representative view of this subgroup – it investigates the sentiments, stories, perceptions, and priorities around Black values and progressive policies, to better understand how they impact Black views on Black LGBTQ+ people,” the press release says.

It says the survey found, among other things, that 73 percent of Gen Z respondents, who in 2024 are between the ages of 12 and 27, “agree that the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people.”

According to the press release, it also found that 40 percent of Black people in the survey reported having a family member who identifies as LGBTQ+ and 80 percent reported having “some proximity to gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer people, but only 42 percent have some proximity to transgender or gender-expansive people.”

The survey includes these additional findings:

• 86% of Black people nationally report having a feeling of shared fate and connectivity with other Black people in the U.S., but this view doesn’t fully extend to the Black LGBTQ+ community. Around half — 51% — of Black people surveyed feel a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.

• 34% reported the belief that Black LGBTQ+ people “lead with their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Those participants were “significantly less likely to support the Black LGBTQ+ community and most likely to report not feeling a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.”

• 92% of Black people in the survey reported “concern about youth suicide after being shown statistics about the heightened rate among Black LGBTQ+ youth.” Those expressing this concern included 83% of self-reported opponents of LGBTQ+ rights.

• “Black people’s support for LGBTQ+ rights can be sorted into three major groups: 29% Active Accomplices, 25% Passive Allies (high potential to be moved), 35% Opponents. Among Opponents, ‘competing priorities’ and ‘religious beliefs’ are the two most significant barriers to supporting Black LGBTQ+ people and issues.”

• 10% of the survey participants identified as LGBTQ. Among those who identified as LGBTQ, 38% identified as bisexual, 33% identified as lesbian or gay, 28% identified as non-binary or gender non-conforming, and 6% identified as transgender.

• Also, among those who identified as LGBTQ, 89% think the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people, 69% think Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedoms than other Black people, 35% think non-Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedom than other Black people, 54% “feel their vote has a lot of power,” 51% live in urban areas, and 75% rarely or never attend church.

Additional information about the survey from NBJC can be accessed here.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular