President Obama broke new ground in his inaugural address when he elevated the 1969 Stonewall gay rights protest to the same hallowed position enjoyed in the American memory by the battle for women's equality and the civil rights struggle.
In six words, Obama propelled the status of the movement for gay and lesbian rights to another level when he overtly connected Stonewall to two of the legendary historic events that symbolise the struggle for African American and women's rights. "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," he said, "just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma and Stonewall."
Seneca Falls was the location in 1848 of an early and influential women's rights convention. Selma was the scene of one of the bloodiest clashes of the civil rights era in March 1965.
To that distinguished list, Obama has now appended Stonewall, the June 1969 uprising of gay men in a bar in the Manhattan neighbourhood of Greenwich Village in protest at the persistent harassment of city police. The event is seen as a seminal moment, marking the birth of the gay pride movement.
Obama's namecheck of Stonewall is not of mere historic importance. It was a signal that he intends to use the power of his office to back the push for gay marriage across the US.
The president has called for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman, while the US supreme court has several gay-marriage cases pending. Later in the address, Obama said: "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."
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