State Of The Union: What the LGBTQIA Community Can Expect

As he has in the past, we can probably expect President Obama to give a nod and a shout out to the LGBTQIA community during his State of the Union address this evening.  It will, no doubt, come with recognition of last fall’s historic repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

One issue still up in the air, however, is any presidential mention of marriage equity.

“On Friday, when asked by the Washington Blade whether Obama would announce support same-sex marriage in the speech, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he wouldn’t rule “in or out” the possibility of the president endorsing gay nuptials during the address.”

He may surprise us, but let’s face it, the President hasn’t exactly been a staunch supporter, having flipped on the issue at least once and with the majority of the speech to be focused on the economy, to bring up the marriage issue tonight would indeed be historic, but the chances are pretty slim.

It is a safe bet, however,  he won’t touch on the vast inequalities still faced by the transgender community.  The trans community wasn’t included in the repeal of DADT and members of its community still face discrimination not only within the confines of the military but within a large segment of our society as well.  Again, it would be great for the President to acknowledge that discrimination tonight, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Of course, it wasn’t all that long ago that a President would  even acknowledge the queer community during the speech at all.  The first time it happened was a mere 13 years ago when, in 1999 then President Bill Clinton called for hate crimes legislation and support for ENDA.

President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Prevention Act into law in 2009, a full ten years after Clinton’s speech. Congress is still working on ENDA.

The Bush years saw a turn away from any positive reference to LGBTQIA rights at all, and instead, in a stunning move to appease the fascist right wing faction of his party, George W. used his 2004 State of the Union speech to lend his support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Since 2009, President Obama has devoted at least a couple of lines to the LGBTQIA community, including two years of calling on congress to repeal the now defiant, “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell”.

President Obama  hasn’t always exactly wowed us during his support, but  one has to admit he has used his clout to advance equality where others haven’t.

Still, it would be nice to hear more, especially in a year in which at least two states, Washington and New Jersey, likely to become marriage equality battle grounds.

Josh Friedes, marriage equality director for Equal Rights Washington, tells the Washington Blade he too would like to hear some sort of acknowledgment of the marriage equality struggle,”If the president of the United States were to announce support for marriage equality, his words would serve as a catalyst for millions of conversations,” Friedes said. “And that’s what we need in Washington State as we contemplate the likelihood of a referendum on a marriage bill this fall. Indeed there is probably no person who can better increase the number of conversations than the president.”

One final note, look for Colonel Ginger Wallace, an openly lesbian intelligence officer and Lorelei Kilker, an environmental chemist who was part of the government’s class action suit to secure equal wages for women, to be in the House balcony tonight.  Both women are guests of the President and First Lady.

You can watch the State of the Union Address live on You Tube starting at 7:00 pm. Click HERE for the stream.

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