Obama spoke for nearly one hour before a joint session of Congress on major issues facing the country, including climate change, defeating violent extremism and pushing forward new scientific initiatives.
“America has been through big changes before — wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights,” Obama said. “Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears.”
The most words Obama devoted to LGBT people during his speech were toward the end when he identified different kinds of Americans. The line could apply to someone identifying as either gay, bisexual or transgender.
“It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught,” Obama said.
In the year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, Obama said the spirit of America is responsible for “how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.”
Obama made history last year by being the first president to say the words “lesbian,” “bisexual” or “transgender” during a State of the Union address. This year, he enumerated the word “gay,” but downplayed the identification in favor of identifying as an American.
“I can promise that a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I’ll be right there with you as a citizen – inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far,” Obama said. “Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed.”
Noticeably absent from Obama’s speech was a call for Congress to pass gun safety measures in the aftermath of the executive actions he announced on the issue last week.
Excluding his introduction by the sergeant-at-arms and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the Washington Blade counted roughly 64 applause lines for Obama during his speech. (A lone audience member clapped for disagreement on health care, military spending and Obama not being able to do things on his own.)
LGBT advocates had called on President Obama to address transgender visibility and the Equality Act in his final State of the Union address. Although they weren’t explicitly mentioned during his remarks, LGBT rights supporters were quick to praise Obama after his remarks.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, was in the House gallery for the speech as a guest of Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and commended Obama in a series of messages on Twitter.
Among the White House guests sitting with first lady Michelle Obama were Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule for same-sex marriage nationwide, and Ryan Reyes, the same-sex partner of one of the victims of the San Bernardino shootings.
Obergefell said in a statement to the Blade he was pleased with the inclusive and forward-looking nature of the Obama’s speech.
“President Obama reminded us of what it means to be Americans, that the way we honor our forefathers and the spirit of our nation is to work together toward the future,” Obergefell said. “It was a privilege to attend the State of the Union on behalf of my late husband John and the other marriage equality plaintiffs as the guest of the First Lady and Sen. Merkley, and I’m humbled that the president acknowledged our fight for the American ideal of equality.”
But anti-LGBT forces were also at work during the State of the Union. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a notoriously anti-LGBT lawmaker, invited Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis of Kentucky, who made national headlines after being found in contempt of court for ignoring the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of same-sex marriage.
Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, said Obama’s speech “reminded all of us of our core American values of dignity and mutual respect” amid a divisive political climate that has demonized LGBT people, Muslims and undocumented immigrants.
“He denounced the politics of hatred and divisiveness with the evidence of his seven years in office—better access to health care, millions of new good-paying jobs, the potential of a world without AIDS, more LGBTQ equality and a pathway to equity for all,” Carey said. “He championed the restoration of vital voting rights and the opportunity for a cure for cancer. An impressive record—and a strong foundation for his successor to build on, whomever that might be. With one more year left, much remains to be done to secure the promise of freedom for all people in this country—let’s make it count.”
– See more at: http://www.washingtonblade.com/2016/01/13/obama-touts-americas-potential-in-lgbt-inclusive-state-of-the-union/#sthash.gWBnrC2d.dpuf