While all eyes will be on President Obama tonight during his final State of the Union (SOTU) address, the guest list includes familiar faces that showcase the continuing struggle for full LGBT equality.
On the heels of a historic year for LGBT equality, two gay men who made headlines in 2015 -- for starkly different reasons -- have been honored with invitations to join First Lady Michelle Obama for the President's address. Jim Obergefell, one of the courageous plaintiffs who brought the historic marriage equality case Obergefell v. Hodges, will be one guest.
“Humbled to be invited by @FLOTUS as her guest for the State of the Union! #SOTU #POTUS ,” Obergefell tweeted.
Also seated in Obama’s box will be Ryan Reyes. Reyes’s boyfriend, Larry ‘Daniel’ Kaufman, was killed in the San Bernardino shooting last month. Kaufman was widely remembered as a hero for his role in helping others to safety as the violence broke out.
Unfortunately, guests tonight will also include a number of anti-LGBT activists who don't deserve to sit in the same room.
Kentucky’s Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who violated the law by openly discriminating against same-sex couples seeking to marry over the summer, will be in attendance. She will be accompanied by her attorney, Mat Staver, who founded the notorious anti-LGBT group Liberty Counsel, a group that has worked to prevent and attack the rights of LGBT people around the world.
Additionally, Dr. Everett Piper will attend the SOTU as Senator James Lankford’s guest. Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, made headlines earlier this month after he boasted that he was of “proud” to lead an institution that sought a waiver from the government in order to discriminate against LGBT students. Piper has been actively involved with other anti-LGBT organizations, like the extreme World Congress of Families.
Throughout his presidency, President Obama has reiterated his commitment to full equality for LGBT people around the globe. From a record number of appointments of LGBT judges and ambassadors, to the institution of far-reaching administrative and regulatory policy changes, President Barack Obama has been a stalwart champion of the LGBT community.
But tonight's guest list at his final State of the Union puts on stark display how much those gains are at risk. From a local county clerk's office to the halls of the U.S. Capitol, those who choose bigotry and hate over equality and love are waiting in the wings to repeal and revoke every bit of progress we have made.
Tonight, HRC President Chad Griffin will also attend the State of the Union as a guest of longtime HRC supporter and LGBT advocate Senator Jeff Merkley. Follow @HRC on Twitter to stay up to date on the #SOTU and stand with us as we continue the fight at every turn to make sure our opponents don't succeed.