Inauguration times are truly times of hope and joy. Yesterday, I was down on the National Mall in Washington, DC, to see President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden take the oaths of office once again.
The hope and joy in the crowd was palpable. Bursts of applause broke out after every few sentences during the President’s inaugural address. Perhaps no applause was greater (especially from me) especially when Obama uttered the following words:
“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.”
I have been working in the field of Catholic LGBT ministry for over 20 years, and it dawned on me yesterday, that 20 years ago, even in my wildest dreams, I would never have guessed or even hoped that I would hear a reference to Stonewall in a presidential inaugural address. But, there it was: the first time ever that LGBT people or issues were mentioned in such a speech.
But it got better.
A short time after the Stonewall reference, Obama added the following words:
“It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began … Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
Not only a second reference to LGBT equality, but a specific, supportive message of marriage equality! I could hardly believe my ears.
All of this was on top of the well-publicized fact before the inauguration that Richard Blanco, the poet chosen to write verse for the occasion, is an openly gay man.
As I reflected last night on the day’s events, I thought of how much hope such milestones provide. What is most important for me is that such moments help to fill our imaginations with hope. As Catholics who work for LGBT justice and equality, it may seem far-fetched to imagine a bishop or the pope saying such things as Obama did yesterday. But 20 years ago, it was equally unimaginable that we would hear what we heard yesterday. And 40 years ago, one would have probably been thought insane to imagine such a prospect.
So, let’s pray in gratitude today for the hope that Obama’s message gives us as Catholic advocates for LGBT people. Let’s give our hope a chance to be renewed and provide our imaginations a chance to be expanded to include impossible dreams. And let’s pray for the courage to work to make those impossible dreams come true.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry