On the same week that he made history with his inclusion of a cry for LGBT equality in his inaugural address, US President Barack Obama on Friday (25 January) addressed 3,000 LGBT rights advocates on their past accomplishments and what lies ahead.
"I’ve always said that the change we need in this country — real change — doesn’t come from Washington, it comes from folks like you. Change has always come from ordinary Americans who sit in or stand up or marched to demand it,’ Obama said in video remarks to attendees of the Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s 25th National Conference on LGBT Equality in Atlanta.
Obama not only mentioned equality for gays and lesbians at the inauguration, he also mentioned the Stonewall riots – the flashpoint for the modern day gay rights movement – alongside such landmark civil rights events as Seneca Falls (women’s equality) and Selma (black equality).
In Friday’s remarks, he expanded on his appreciation for this history: ‘Decades ago, when most doctors declared being gay a mental disorder, you organized and rallied to change their minds. When thousands suffered in the shadows during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, you cast a bright light on their pain. And today, you’re helping lead the way to a future where everyone is treated with dignity and respect no matter who they love or where they come from.’
Last year, Obama became the first president in history to personally endorse gay marriage and he also ordered the US Justice Department to stop defending the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in court. A DOMA case will be heard by the US Supreme Court this spring.
He encouraged the activists to keep fighting.
‘The work will be hard, the road will be long, but I’m more confident than ever that we will reach a better future as long as Americans like you keep reaching for justice – and all of us keep marching together.’