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Op-ed: Will Obama's SOTU Address Include Full Equality?

Op-ed: Will Obama's SOTU Address Include Full Equality?


President Obama has an opportunity to do something bold for LGBT Americans. Will it happen?

This year's State of the Union address will undoubtedly include many of the same big ideas and political platitudes that most big presidential addresses include, regardless of the president. There will be talk of bolstering the middle class. There will be talk of strengthening our schools. There will be talk of coming together and the need to put aside partisan politics.

But will there be anything truly revolutionary in this year's State of the Union address?

There are many things that we'll be looking for in this year's address. President Obama has an opportunity to take a powerful stand on ending police brutality and unfair targeting of black and brown communities, providing universal access to education, reestablishing voting rights for all, and ensuring truly comprehensive health care access. He also has an opportunity to show true moral and thought leadership and endorse full legal equality for LGBTQ individuals -- and to help make that dream a reality.

This year, Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. David Cicilline will introduce a bill that would finally remedy the myriad ways in which LGBTQ Americans are unequal under the law -- in realms including employment, housing, health care, and education. President Obama has not yet endorsed an effort to grant full legal equality to LGBTQ people, and as the final congressional session of his presidency begins, we hope he will take the opportunity to do so.

The Supreme Court's decision to hear another case about the right of LGBTQ individuals to a legally recognized marriage has again highlighted the movement toward equality under the law for LGBTQ Americans. This year's State of the Union address gives President Obama an opportunity to amplify the lived truth of millions of Americans -- that marriage equality is not the end of the road in the march toward full LGBTQ equality without exemptions and without caveats.

President Obama could play it safe this year -- listening to the Democratic pundits who want him to serve as a lame-duck president who simply uses his last two years in office to not offend people who won't vote for him anyway. Or he could truly revolutionize the fight for real progressive change -- including but not limited to LGBTQ justice -- by seizing the opportunity of his two remaining years in office to make bold commitments in this year's address.

There are approximately 104 more weeks left in President Obama's term -- 104 more weeks to make bold choices about, how he wants to have an impact, and what legacy he wishes to leave behind. Our wish is that this State of the Union -- unlike others before -- truly reflects the hope and change that Barack Obama ran for office to deliver.

ANGELA PEOPLES and HEATHER CRONK are codirectors of GetEqual.

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Angela Peoples and Heather Cronk