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|Obama mentions gay soldiers in State of the Union, but was it enough?|
|Written by Ryan Watkins|
|Wednesday, 25 January 2012 12:18|
President Barack Obama briefly mentioned gay soldiers in his third State of the Union address last night.
Sitting in attendance with First Lady Michelle Obama were Loreliei Kilker and Cononel Ginger Wallace, two out and proud lesbian women. Kilker was awarded a monetary settlement after an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation found systemic sex discrimination at her previous employment. Wallace and her partner, Kathy Knoph, participated together in Wallace's recent promotion ceremony, the first promotion ceremony featuring a same-sex couple after the repeal of the military's “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy.
The president didn't mention either Kilker or Wallace in his address. His only mention of anything close to acknowledging the gay rights struggle came just four paragraphs from the end of his speech.
Which brings me back to where I began. Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian or Latino; conservative or liberal; rich or poor; gay or straight. When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one Nation, leaving no one behind.
Reaction to the speech was mixed among gay rights groups.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an organization that fought for the repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” commended Obama for successfully repealing the discriminatory law that was the basis for more than 13,000 military discharges:
Tonight, SLDN was pleased to hear President Obama acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices of our service members, including gay and lesbian Americans who wear our nation's uniform. The repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' would not have been possible without his vision and determination. And at SLDN, we are encouraged by his announcement of a new initiative to hire veterans, who are coming home to a very difficult job market.
GOProud, a gay, conservative organization, was less than thrilled with the speech and reiterated its commitment to electing a Republican candidate:
GOProud is committed to making sure Barack Obama is a one-term President. The American people – gay and straight – deserve a President who will encourage free enterprise to grow the American economy and create jobs. We need a President who understands that government doesn’t have all the answers – indeed often government is the problem. We need a President who will defend individual liberty and keep Americans safe, at home and abroad. In short, we need a new President.
GetEQUAL, a gay rights action-oriented advocacy organization, posted this on its Facebook page after the president's speech:
All hype that "lesbians" were sitting next to the First Lady of the US & LGBT orgs were getting front row access to White House Chat! We've gotten good "access" since former President Bill Clinton, Barack Obama has given "gay" shout outs since he was a young Senator from IL and we've been sitting in the US Capitol building, openly gay, for decades. What is the big deal? Sadly, yes, we are still less than equal!
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force reminded supporters that economic hardship is affecting all America's families:
This is a challenge right now, in a nation where the rich are getting richer and everyone else is struggling to tread water. Many families are hurting, and LGBT families are just as vulnerable to economic hardship. The fact is, the state of the union for LGBT people remains largely one of inequality. In many parts of the country, we can still be fired from or denied employment for simply being who we are, and marriage inequality relegates our families to second-class status.
If the president is truly serious about job creation and boosting America's economic well-being, he must provide leadership to pass federal employment protections for LGBT people and end the costly and unjust federal marriage ban. He must also retain the safety net of services that so many people and families depend upon for their survival.
R. Clarke Cooper, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, hit the president on his handling of the economy:
So-called “#Buffett Rule” would ensure everyone pays their “fair share” in taxes. More class warfare talk at #SOTU by @BarackObama . Yipes!
What did you think of Obama's speech?
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