“…Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall…”
There it was. Right there in the President’s inaugural address, about three quarters through. “The most evident of truths,” he stated, is “that all of us are created equal,” and that this truth “is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall….”
Seneca Falls. Selma. Stonewall. Sites of events that proclaimed, each so bravely in its day, that women, that African Americans, that LGBT people, stood in the embrace of equality – and moved America closer to its most vaunted and most precious ideals.
Even as it becomes more common for public figures to acknowledge LGBT rights, President Obama’s words made me skip a breath. Maybe because they rang out from the steps of a red, white, and blue-drenched Capitol. Maybe because they were spoken in front of Supreme Court justices, the Congress, ambassadors from around the world. Maybe it was because those words sounded before a sea of humanity and hundreds of millions listening around the globe.
And in case anyone missed the Stonewall reference (as surely some did with Seneca Falls or even Selma as well), the President swung back just a few lines later to declare 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.”
How magnificent. Maybe you also remember years of watching the party conventions, listening to candidate debates and speeches – and wondering whether “gay” would be mentioned. And wondering whether if the word was spoken, would it be to welcome us – or to close us out of the circle of equality?
Today is different. Different in a thousand ways. And that the Inauguration should fall on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – there simply may not be words to capture the grand symbolism of this calendrical coincidence. It could hardly be more fitting or more moving.
The President today did not deploy the word “hope” as liberally as he did four years ago, when the nation’s economy had collapsed, and when his very election ranked as an irrefutable argument for hope in this diverse and often divisive land. Yet his words in 2013 were no less hope-filled, a hope inherent in his repeated invocation of “we the people,” the belief in what we can accomplish together.
And, for once – dare we hope “and for all”? – it’s clear that we, as LGBT “brothers and sisters,” number proud and counted and welcomed, among this people.