Earlier this week, President Barack Obama become the first U.S. president to say the word “gay” in an inaugural address. In doing so, he solidified his role as the most powerful Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender ally in the country.
Obama’s historic speech during his second presidential inauguration added LGBT rights to the typical demand for racial and gender equality under the law. He called for more attention to gender discrimination in the workforce and reestablished his support for same-sex marriage by saying, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”
The speech came as the Supreme Court is poised to hear two cases that could result in the legalization of gay marriage as early as June. In 2011, lawmakers agreed to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the U.S. Military. A 2012 poll of the American public by CBS News found 51 percent of Americans think same-sex marriage should be legal, with 72 percent of people ages 18 to 29 supporting gay marriage. Currently nine states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to wed. Public opinion isn’t what it used to be.
While Obama seems the front-running politician in the battle for LGBT rights, this issue does not need to fall victim to partisan politics. Republicans, still recovering from the hit of losing the presidential election, should reevaluate the ideas of its younger base and adapt its platform to include the values of all families. It’s time for America’s lawmakers to grant Americans the rights they deserve.
The early 20th century will forever lay claim to the women’s rights movement. The ’60s will always be the era that outlawed racial discrimination and offered black men the vote. It’s time to take a stand and make this decade count. LGBT rights are no longer a back burner issue, and the next major milestone in the history of American civil rights may be quickly approaching — and college campuses should lead the way.
Academic activism has been a cornerstone of American civil rights since Southern students sat at lunchrooms to protest Jim Crow laws, Berkeley students rioted to stop the Vietnam War and Oberlin College became the first college to admit women. This is our time, and this is our movement. The youth generation must establish itself as a political force and define the issues it will be remembered for.