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Sunday, June 16, 2024

After being sworn in Monday, President Barack Obama made history by becoming the first president to mention gay rights in an inaugural speech.

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” he said. “For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

Charles G. Shields, a 33-year-old UF Ph.D. candidate in political science and co-director of Out and About at UF, watched the inauguration Monday with about 15 other political science graduate students in his apartment.

When Obama mentioned gay rights in the nation, Shields said, everyone in his living room cheered.

“I was really surprised to hear the word gay used that way, especially the term ‘gay brothers and sisters,’” he said. “I was pleasantly surprised.”

Shields said he thought the president’s announcement was “a really big deal,” especially with his mention of other civil rights movements.

Jarrod Cruz, director of Intercultural Engagement for UF’s Department of Multicultural & Diversity Affairs, said Obama mentioning gay rights in his speech was “groundbreaking.”

“It’s historical,” he said. “It’s monumental for this country to take such a great stand for justice.”

Cruz said he thinks the LGBT movement is strong and will continue to progress.

“It moves toward the advancement and equality for all people,” he said.

Cruz added that states are slowly adopting policies and laws that grant equal rights to gays and lesbians in areas such as marriage equality, health care and adoption.

Jade Woods, a 21-year-old criminology and law senior and a student ambassador for LGBT Affairs at UF, said about 10 states legalized gay marriage.

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Since the 2012 election, three states — Maine, Maryland and Washington — legalized gay marriage.

Additionally, Minnesota prohibited bans of gay marriage.

Woods said she thought society is much more accepting than it was.

“Like Obama said, we’re not there yet,” she said. “We’re definitely making progress, so I’m happy about that.”

Ana Camacho, a 22-year-old UF psychology and religion senior, agreed that the president’s announcement means progress.

“If equality is such an important point in America, then why not give them that freedom?” she said.

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