Jan 21, 2015

President Obama first to add the L, B and T to LGBT in State of the Union

With his own re-election and the last midterm election of his presidency behind him, President Barack Obama stepped up to the plate, or podium rather, and delivered a State of the Union address that harkened back to his 2004 keynote at the Democratic National Convention, and laid out a vision for the United States to lead the world economically, academically, in acting on climate change, and more.

Here’s a few moments where the President gave a nod to the LGBT community.

2015 State of the Union on Dignity

 

“As Americans, we respect human dignity…It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims — the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.”

It turns out, according to Time, this is the first time in history that the word “transgender” has ever been used in a State of the Union Address. In fact, President Obama is the first president ever to use the word “bisexual” and “lesbian” in a State of the Union address as well, and is the second president to use the word “gay.” Who was the first? It was President Bill Clinton. That’s right, we went a full 8 years during the Bush Administration without getting any sort of shout out from the President.

2015 State of the Union Gay Marriage

 

“I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home.”

If you’ll remember, gay marriage was such a wedge issue during the 2004 presidential election, state ballot measures to prohibit it are blamed by some for the re-election of President George W. Bush, as conservatives flocked to the polls to protect what they believed was the sanctity of marriage, driving up the number of votes for the incumbent president. Whether or not the ballot measures actually helped Bush is debatable. What’s not debatable though is that marriage equality has been a hot button politically, an issue that has helped fan the flames of indignation on the right.

Fortunately, the sands have shifted on the issue. in 2005, Gallup reported that 55% of Americans believed gay marriages should not be recognized legally. Ten years later, in 2014, that number was down to 42%, with 55% of Americans responding that gay marriages should be legally recognized.

Obama’s remarks on gay marriage in this State of the Union come on the eve of the United States Supreme Court once again taking the issue, with every indicator that it would be the last time they do. By the end of the summer, it’s very likely that the 7 out of 10 states the President referenced, being where gay marriage was legal, will be 10 out of 10.

Here in Virginia, with the US Supreme Court’s inaction, gay marriage is legal. Currently, there are bills in the Virginia House of Delegates and Virginia Senate to both amend the Virginia Constitution to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment, passed in 2006, and statutes in the Code of Virginia which prohibit gay marriage. See bills SJ213, SJ214, HJ492, HJ493, SB682, HB1288, HB1289.

2015 State of the Union Differences

 

“I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen — man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.”

In this State of the Union, President Obama laid out a vision for America that reflects the best in us, or at least the best of what we could be. It’s a vision we should strive for. It’s going to take a massive effort, with the President and Congress working together, to even begin to achieve this vision. Republicans should be looking for opportunities to actually get something done in the face of a looming 2016 election where they, and their nominee for president, are going to be judged for what happens over the course of the next year; however, it’s difficult to be too optimistic that much, if anything, related to the President’s vision will actually get done.

Still, the vision shared by President Obama is one of hope. Hope that we can bring good paying jobs back to our shores. Hope that we can support an education system that prepares students for the challenges of tomorrow. Hope that we can realize a future with cleaner energy and stem the disastrous tide of climate change. Overall, the President reminds us to have hope in ourselves, and faith that we can be better than we have been. Hope that we can work together to solve our collective problems. Hope in “one America.”