Obama: first president to use word 'gay' in inaugural address

President makes gay rights paramount as many welcome surprisingly liberal second-term agenda

LAST UPDATED AT 10:48 ON Tue 22 Jan 2013

PRESIDENT OBAMA put gay marriage, immigration reform and climate change on his second term agenda in emphatic style yesterday with an inaugural address that turned its back on earlier efforts to bridge the political divide and offered instead "a robust articulation of modern liberalism in America".

Four years ago, the president made "post-partisan appeals" to both sides of politics in an attempt to bring America together, says the New York Times. But after being swept back into power he is now "laying out a forceful vision" for his second term that seeks to advance gay rights, show more tolerance to illegal immigrants and address climate change. The paper notes he is the first president ever to use the word 'gay' in an Inaugural Address.

Writing in the Washington Post, Dan Balz says Obama's speech showed "how far he has travelled" during four years in office. The politician who once advocated "transcending divisive politics" has gone, replaced by a leader who accepts the "reality of those divisions and is determined to prevail on his terms".

Obama's speech to a crowd of approximately 800,000 people gathered on the Washington Mall yesterday revealed a man tempered by experience and "looking at his next four years with a sense of frustration and impatience", says Balz. Obama "now believes that a different style of leadership is required."

The president's comments about same-sex marriage "boosted" gay rights activists' hopes that his administration will argue the issue in the Supreme Court, says the Los Angeles Times. The paper points out that Obama delivered his speech "just feet" from the Supreme Court judges who will "take up the issue this spring" and his words went far beyond a simple mention because he "equated gay rights with the country's iconic civil rights movements".

While many commentators praised the liberal tone of Obama's speech, there was dissent from a predictable source. Fox News's Douglas E. Schoen says the speech was "rousing", but Obama has "not proven himself to be a man whose actions have been congruent with the ideals and goals for America that he says are so important".

Despite this, the day belonged to Obama if comments posted on Twitter are any guide. USA Today says the social media site was awash with "joy and excitement", but sadness too that America may not see another black president for some time once Obama's four years are up.

"Today is another great day for history. Probably the last time in a while there will be a black president. MLK [Martin Luther King] would be proud," one tweet said. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.