President Obama Offers Encouragement As LGBT Movement Reflects On Progress

Task Force President Rea Carey

This weekend, over 3,000 LGBT activists and allies gathered in Atlanta, Georgia for the 25th Annual National Conference on LGBT Equality, Creating Change. Every year, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force President Rea Carey delivers a “State of the Movement” address to the conference, but before she did on Friday, President Obama offered a special video message:

OBAMA: I’ve always said that the change we need in this country — real change — doesn’t come from Washington, it comes from folks like you. Change has always come from ordinary Americans who sit in or stand up or march to demand it. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has been a partner at the forefront of that movement for 40 years. […]

Decades ago, in the dark days when most doctors declared being gay a mental disorder, you organized and rallied to change their minds. When thousands suffered in the shadows during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, you cast a bright light on their pain. And today, you’re helping to lead the way to a future where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, no matter who they love or where they come from. […]

With your help, we will continue the journey to perfect our union. The work will be hard, the road will be long, but I’m more confident than ever that we will reach a better future as long as Americans like you keep reaching for justice — and all of us keep marching together.

Watch it:

In Carey’s address, she highlighted that the LGBT community so often — if not too often — relies on “families of choice,” people selected to be support structures when genetic family does not do the same. Though the past year has included many significant victories, it was only because of the inspiration of those who came before and the alliances we’ve built in their stead:

CAREY: While the LGBT community certainly didn’t invent the idea of chosen family, I believe through necessity, through our struggle to survive and to love, we may have perfected it. […]

After all, from the very first moments of our modern LGBT movement, we have given shape to the word family not the other way around; and we, out of our own experience, have created beautiful, expansive chosen families. As the saying goes, “An army of lovers…” or, in our movement’s case, an army of ex-lovers — often makes up our families.

Our movement must be one that embraces the many ways we create and choose our family.

We want a family that understands, that has our back, that picks us up when we need it, that pushes us further when we tire, a family that walks in the door when everyone else has walked out.

Watch Friday’s entire plenary session from the conference, including the In Memoriam remembrance of lives lost in the movement over the past year. Carey’s address begins around minute 20: