After Inauguration, the Need for Progress

Obama cites gay rights in speech, but must follow with action

In his second inauguration address, Barack Obama became the first president to claim gay and lesbian equality as a civil right, on par with African-American’s and women’s rights. But now, the president is under pressure from some LGBT groups to follow his bold statement with real progress.

We, the people, declare today that the most self-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; just as it guided all of those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth,” Obama said to applause.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. 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 that we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

Prior to the rousing speech, however, LGBT groups urged Obama to take another historical step: appointing an openly gay Cabinet secretary. Compared to his first-term Cabinet, which (with a few mid-term changes) ultimately included five women and five people of color among the 15 heads, Obama’s expected second-term picks are leaning more white and male. Thus, nominating a gay or lesbian secretary would increase the diversity of the President’s advisors and fulfill the vow made in his second inaugural speech.

One openly gay Obama official considered a possibility for a Cabinet post is John Berry, currently the director of the Office of Personnel Management. The Washington Post reported that the president may pick Berry to replace outgoing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, though no official statement has been issued. Berry told the Post that “I stand ready to serve this President in whatever capacity that he feels helpful.”

What Do You Think?