President Barack Obama made history when he spoke in defense of the LGBT community at his second inaugural address Monday. This marked the first time gay rights have been mentioned in an inaugural speech.
While the president discussed other matters, such as the economy and his expectations for the direction of the country, he also mentioned the Stonewall riots, a landmark event in the gay rights movement, and said that gay and lesbian people should be treated “like anyone else under the law.”
LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and is a movement pushing to gain worldwide acceptance.
Joseph Antonelli, founder and president of Gainesville Community Alliance, said President Obama brought hope for those seeking equal rights.
“It was very affirming,” Antonelli said. “It was very real. It touched my heart. It touched my soul.”
Antonelli said that he thinks the issue of LGBT rights will eventually come down to a Supreme Court ruling.
“After 50 years of activism, I can truly say that I see the end of the tunnel,” Antonelli said. “I see the day when the new generation coming up will inclusively add all people into the perspective of American equality.”
Among the younger generation of LGBT activists is Lauren Hannahs, director of LGBT affairs at the University of Florida. Hannahs said yesterday’s inauguration speech was evidence that the LGBT community is alive and deserves both attention and respect.
“I think it means that you can’t ignore the LGBT community anymore,” Hannahs said. “All of the public representation of the LGBT community always had a negative stigma attached to it. For him to publicly liken the LGBT movement to the civil rights movement in the 1960s was historic.”
Chairman of the Alachua County Republican Party Stafford Jones said Obama’s mentioning of the LGBT community was insignificant and should not be the focus of his speech.
“That’s not the issue of the day,” Jones said. “The issue of the day, and the things that I cared about in the speech were how big is government going to get? How expensive is it going to get? How much is it going to cost to run it?”
Antonelli said that while he does not believe reform will be swift, he does believe it is coming. He said he was appreciative of Obama for advocating the movement.
“He has great vision,” Antonelli said. “He will go down in history as a man who has literally cracked the egg open. Now we have to make the omelette.”
Mike Llerena edited this story online.