Gay and Lesbian inclusion in State of the Union address

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President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress Tuesday night. Filled with the same hopeful rhetoric and inspiring one-liners that the two-term president is known for, Obama covered a number of points including the economy, Afghanistan, bipartisan bickering, gun control, and a caveat to LGBT Americans. 

Obama made two short and understated references to the LGBT comunity. While discussing the nation’s economic stability, the president used a line that has become his standard when referencing gay and lesbian inclusion, saying, “It is our generation’s…unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love.” 

In reference to the nation’s struggle to rise above the financial degradation of the last few years, Obama said, “We have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is strong.” 

On the international front, Obama acknowledged North Korea’s nuclear test, launched hours before his speech, saying “Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further.” Obama also announced his intentions to withdraw 34,000 American troops from Afghanistan over the next 12 months.

The President also addressed his intentions to continue the expansion of benefits to gay and lesbian service members in the military, as well as women in general, saying, “We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight. We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat.”

Other topics covered in Obama’s speech included a promise to progress on climate change, preschool for all, immigration reform, a raise in minimum wage, nuclear arms reduction, and gun control legislation. 

Reactions among the LGBT community have been mixed. Many have noted the exclusion of the transgender community from the President’s remarks, as well as no official stance regarding the direction of federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act and immigration issues concerning same-sex couples.

Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay or lesbian Senator, was pleased with Obama’s direction, calling the inclusion of the gay and lesbian community “poetic, and sort of weaving into the larger fabric of movements throughout our nation’s history. Today, I was pleased with the power of his language.”

Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, the largest equality advocacy group in the mid-west, compared the State of the Union to the President’s recent inaugrual address. “We were pleased, then, that the President also included another specific issue of LGBT equality on the nation’s ‘To do’ list for 2013 during the State of the Union address tonight.”

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