The First Gay Inaugural Address

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 21 2013 6:30 PM

The First Gay Inaugural Address

These were the lines that made heads turn and journos start trying to get cell phone reception again during the speech.

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.
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And:

Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone 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.

Don't bother googling. Presidents have never before talked about gay rights this way, in inaugural addresses. In 2009, as a barely-believable supporter of "traditional marriage," Obama didn't touch it. Bill Clinton, a year after signing DOMA, only referred to "our rich texture of racial, religious and political diversity." In 1993, the only thing you could count as a nod to gay voters and donors was a mention of the "world AIDS crisis."

This was a compelling moment, and for a lot of the crowd, thrillling -- I saw guys with "LGBT for Obama" buttons beaming as they left. Gay rights are becoming so mainstream, so quickly, that it's no longer a surprise when a Republican politician says that it's no longer worth fighting gay marriage, or when he fails to bang the table about the lawsuit to defend DOMA. Hearing the president say this, though, not in a forced TV interview but in a speech that'll be printed in histories of the era, felt like a true sea change.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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