President Obama welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the constitutionality of same-sex marriage Friday with a moving speech in the Rose Garden. The president’s remarks focused on how the decision supports the American “bedrock principle” that “we are all created equal.” Obama acknowledged that while it is sometimes difficult to “bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times,” it is our duty to always strive to “ensure those words ring true for every single American.”
The president added historical context to the decision in Obergefell, noting that getting to this point was a matter of small steps and persistence; but he also eloquently conveyed the momentousness of the occasion: “Sometimes there are days like this, when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”
Obama’s expression shifted from reverent to almost smiling over the course of the speech, as he described the ruling as a “victory” not only for Jim Obergefell and LGBTQ Americans, but also for the country as a whole. In a nod to activists who have sometimes leveled criticisms at his administration for not acting quickly enough on certain issues, the president pointed out that change on marriage has been remarkably quick relative to other social issues—a phenomenon he rightly attributed not only to the efforts of activists, but to the “countless, often anonymous heroes” who came out to families and friends and stood up to bullying during less sympathetic times. While he acknowledged that many Americans may still object to same-sex marriage due to religious commitments, Obama noted how the success of the marriage equality movement proved that “shifts in hearts and minds is possible.” He also took care to point out that queer people now have “a responsibility to reach back and help others join them” in full equality.
With the annual marking of the Stonewall rebellion and the associated festivities in many cities coming up this weekend, the president appropriately sounded a note of pride: “Today we can say in no uncertain terms that we’ve made our union a little more perfect … America should be very proud.”