“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.”
President Obama uttered these words during his inauguration speech on January 21st, 2013, in front of over twenty million Americans. Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall. These three places mark the front lines of three distinct social movements that altered United States’ history – three places where activists fought relentlessly in order to bring about change and righteousness.
Seneca Falls was the site of a convention held on behalf of women’s rights in 1848 that kick-started the push for female social and economic equality under the law. Selma is an Alabaman city where protesters to black oppression marched in the name of justice, protesters who, as a result of police attacks, shed blood for their cause. The Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Rights Movement have made their foundation a prominent part of our nation’s philosophy for years: the idea that all people are equal, regardless of race or sex. America’s present would appear unrecognizable were it not for these shifts in our culture.
The outlier and unexpected addition to this trio, however, is Stonewall. On June 28th, 1969, the NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. The abuse that customers underwent from police led to widespread riots, and gave birth to what is now commonly considered the gateway event that led to the modern LGBT Movement. Obama’s inclusion of Stonewall in his speech about equality opened the political theater to a subject never before heard in a Presidential address: the push to provide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Americans the same rights and treatment under the law as straight citizens. By highlighting Stonewall in his inauguration speech, the President shed light on the changing attitudes toward and continued struggle of gay people living in America.
In 2013, there stands only sixteen states that allow gay marriage; many restrict gay couples from receiving the same benefits as heterosexual unions. Several still enforce acts enabling employers to dismiss or refuse workers based on their sexuality or sexual identity. Texan restaurant owners retain the ability to refuse service to gay patrons. Only recently did...