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Obama briefly mentions LGBT equality, Sochi Olympics in State of the Union

Laws and LegislationElectionsOlympicsWinter OlympicsBarack Obama

President Barack Obama briefly reiterated his commitment to LGBT equality around the globe in a section of Tuesday night's State of the Union speech, but he did not address the stalled Employment Non-Discrimination Act or whether he would issue an executive order to prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors.

In a larger discussion about American ideals and the United States' opportunities to "promote understanding around the globe," Obama suggested the nation is in part defined by its belief "in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation."

He then specifically pointed to the upcoming Sochi Olympics as "one expression of that commitment," in a clear reference to his previously expressed disdain for host country Russia's controversial anti-gay laws.

Additionally, Obama made the first-ever mention of "marriage equality" in a State of the Union when he cited the legalization of same-sex marriage as an example of the White House's work with state and local governments.

Marriage equality was the only domestic LGBT-related issue mentioned by Obama during Tuesday's speech.

While a fact sheet distributed by the White House mentioned the president's support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill which would prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in hiring, Obama did not mention the legislation in the final speech.

Obama previously supported ENDA prior to the bill winning Senate approval last November. Since then, ENDA has been stuck in the House of Representatives.

"The President’s message tonight failed to address the needs of LGBT workers looking for a fair shake in this economy," said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin in a statement.

Among those present at the Capitol to hear Obama discuss LGBT rights was Jason Collins, a former NBA center who came out in a Sports Illustrated article last May. Collins, who has been hailed as the first active male athlete in a major American team sport to come out as openly gay, attended the State of the Union as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama.

The announcement Collins would be sitting in the first lady's box Tuesday night offered an early indication President Obama might address LGBT issues in some way in his speech to Congress. It has become a tradition for the first lady's guests to include people whose backgrounds can help illustrate policy points made in the president's speech. 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Laws and LegislationElectionsOlympicsWinter OlympicsBarack Obama
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