by Rex Wockner
U.S. President Barack Obama made one reference to gay people during his Jan. 25 State of the Union address.
“Our troops come from every corner of this country,” he said. “They’re black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. And with that change, I call on all our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.”
Gay groups were quick to react to Obama’s words.
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said: “(T)onight’s announcement is welcome news for all Americans ready to close the book on discrimination in the ranks. … Tonight is the culmination of a promise kept by this president.”
Solmonese added, however, that Obama also needs to commit to “ending the unfair taxation of partner health benefits, prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and ensuring that all married couples have access to the same federal benefits and protections for their families.”
GetEQUAL Director Robin McGehee expressed disappointment over the address.
“Tonight, President Obama missed an opportunity to lay out an agenda and strategy that continues progress made toward LGBT equality — removing the burden of being second-class citizens and acknowledging our families,” she said. “Sadly, while national hero Daniel Hernandez sat with the First Lady to witness this historic speech, he did not have the luxury of sitting there as an equal — for that, our elected officials should be ashamed. It is time for the president to put the power of the White House behind the passage of legislation that would give the right of full federal equality to LGBT Americans.”
“We refuse to accept the political excuses that ‘now is not the time’ for ‘difficult’ issues like equality or that these issues are too ‘complicated’ or ‘controversial’ to take on right now,” McGehee said. “Equality is never convenient. Justice is never easy. Each day that we wait until discrimination is ‘easier’ to combat, another LGBT person dies unequal. Each day that we wait, another couple is pulled apart at the border by American immigration policies. Each day that we wait, another of our transgender neighbors (is) left without a paycheck under discriminatory employment policies.”
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said, “if the president is truly serious about job creation and boosting America’s economic well-being, he must provide leadership and action in helping to pass employment protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and ending the costly and unjust federal marriage ban.”
“Fact is, the state of the union for (LGBT) people remains largely one of inequality, as we can still be fired from or denied employment in many parts of the country for nothing other than bias, and marriage inequality relegates our families to second-class status,” she said.
The National Center for Transgender Equality issued a statement pointing out that the pending repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on open gays in the military “still does not allow transgender people to serve openly or to join the military.”
For video of Obama’s gay reference, see tinyurl.com/653pz4j.