Conservatives are lashing out at President Obama’s call for LGBT equality in his inaugural address, arguing that the president is picking a fight where there isn’t one to pick.
Obama made history in his second inaugural address by becoming the first president to refer to “our gay brothers and sisters” when discussing equality. In doing so, he effectively put gay rights on his second-term agenda and reaffirmed his support for the LGBT community.
“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,” the president said, referencing the 1969 Stonewall riots, which were a response to the anti-gay policies that members of the LGBT community faced regularly in the 1960s.
He continued, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like everyone 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.”
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins responded to Obama’s speech on his radio show Monday and accused the president of pushing a “loaded agenda” that was “rotten” in its core:
Seneca Falls was a woman’s suffrage movement, giving women the right to vote. Selma, obviously, a push to ensure that African Americans—black Americans—in this country had full voting rights and civil rights. Stonewall, many people may not be aware of, was a move of New York of homosexuals that were pushing back for special rights. To tie all those together, there is not a single person in this country today that is gay or lesbian that are denied the rights to vote, the right to work, or doing anything else.
What they’re seeking, and it’s a little disingenuous because he doesn’t say it, but it’s code what he’s saying here. He’s going to push to give them the right to redefine marriage. They have every right that you and I have today.
While Stonewall wasn’t about voting rights the way Seneca Falls and Selma were, the riots were still a protest about the violation of a freedom not granted to gay and lesbian individuals—the freedom to assemble, which is protected in the Constitution under the First Amendment.
At the time in New York City, there were few safe spaces for gays and lesbians to assemble, and police raids on gay-friendly bars were common. The Stonewall riots began in 1969 after a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, one of the largest gay establishments. The event is widely considered to be the most important moment for gay rights in the nation’s history and led to a more organized effort for equality, and one that opened the door for the modern fight for gay rights.
Perkins joins a chorus of other conservatives who are calling Obama’s inaugural address too partisan, but not all Republicans agree. In an email to MSNBC.com, Log Cabin Republicans’ interim executive director Gregory T. Angelo acknowledged the importance of the president’s address:
President Obama’s statement shows just how far we’ve come as a country—and how far he’s come in just the past eight months—in recognizing the importance of equal rights for all Americans. The President’s words—uttered just feet from the Justices of the Supreme Court—underscore just how critical 2013 is going to be for civil marriage recognition for committed gay and lesbian couples throughout the United States.
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told the press that Obama supports legalizing same-sex marriage, but believes it should be decided by states individually. Rhode Island, the only New England state that has yet to legalize gay marriage, has most recently sent a same-sex marriage bill to the state House and a vote is expected Thursday.