LGBT leaders welcome Obama’s call for equality, immigration reform, AIDS-free generation



LGBT civil rights activists cheered the first State of the Union address of President Barack Obama’s second term.

The president, meanwhile, was calling on all his supporters – in a telephone conference call – to help him carry out the proposals he set forth in the speech on Feb. 12.

Early in the address, the president made a broad statement for equality and opportunity in America: “It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, or who you love.

“It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.”

Listening, LGBT activists on Tuesday night heard the president call specifically for equal benefits for LGBT members of the military and their families, as well as support for women in combat.

“As long as I’m commander-in-chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad, and we will maintain the best military the world has ever known,” Obama said.

“We’ll invest in new capabilities, even as we reduce waste and wartime spending.  We will ensure equal treatment for all servicemembers, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight. We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters and moms, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat.”

Responding, Army veteran and OutServe-SLDN executive director Allyson Robinson said, “President Obama was very clear tonight in his assertion that lesbian and gay servicemembers and their families must be treated equally by the nation they serve. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta opened the path to equal recognition, benefits and support to gay and lesbian servicemembers this week. To finish the task, the Supreme Court must strike down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.”

Also, she said, “And outmoded, obsolete policies that bar qualified American patriots who are transgender from military service must be eliminated.”

LGBT activists also heard the president call for the implementation of his plan for comprehensive immigration reform, which includes protections for binational same-sex couples denied equal access to marriage.

Responding, Jennifer Chrisler of the Family Equality Council said, “Tonight the president made clear that every American deserves to have a shot at the American dream regardless of where they live, what they look like or who they love. The fulfillment of his agenda can help ensure that.”

Activists additionally heard the president say the promise of an AIDS-free generation can become a reality.

Responding, Kali Lindsey of the National Minority AIDS Council said, “As President Obama made clear tonight, the nation must do more to address the root causes of persistent and devastating economic and health disparities that fuel both social inequity and HIV vulnerability. Simply expanding access to health insurance coverage is not enough. On its own, an insurance card is worth little more than the paper on which it is printed.  We must ensure that those communities that have historically been locked out of the health care system have the support and security to navigate that system.”