Tonight, President Obama gave his third State of the Union address, which focused on building a lasting economic recovery.
For the first time in our nation’s history, two out lesbians—Air Force Colonel Ginger Wallace and Lorelei Kilker—were among the select group invited to attend the speech as guests of First Lady Michelle Obama.
Wallace is an Air Force intelligence officer who served in the Iraq war. When she was recently promoted to her current rank, her partner participated in her official pinning ceremony, becoming the first same-sex partner to be included in such a ceremony. This was possible only because the long-awaited repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy finally allowed Wallace and other lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers to serve proudly and openly.
Kilker is an environmental chemist who was part of the government’s class action suit to secure equal wages, training, and promotion opportunities for women. Kilker filed a lawsuit on behalf of herself and other women at Western Sugar Cooperative. With strong support from the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission, the company agreed to a significant settlement on behalf of Kilker and her fellow class members.
The symbolism of having two openly lesbian women included so visibly in the President’s speech tonight speaks volumes about the unprecedented inclusiveness of this administration. Tonight’s speech also reminded us of another simple truth we must remember heading into election season. The economy is an LGBTQ issue. The fundamental right to work, and to make a life for ourselves and our families, must be protected, and we need leaders like President Obama who understand this.