President Obama addressed the annual National Gay and Lesbian Task Force conference Friday–the country’s largest gathering of advocates for LGBT rights–to echo a theme from his inaugural address, that “our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”
“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,” Obama said in a video statement before 3,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights activists. “Change has always come from ordinary Americans who sit in or stand up or marched to demand it.”
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force met in Atlanta this week to strategize ways to bring the president’s message of legal equality to states and localities where it isn’t yet a reality for LGBT individuals. In Georgia, for example, the home of the conference, there are no laws to protect against hate crimes or sexual orientation discrimination in employment.
“Decades ago, in the dark day when most doctors declared being gay a mental disorder, you organized and rallied to change their minds,” Obama said. “When thousands suffered in the shadows during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, you cast a bright light on their pain.”
Despite recent victories for gay rights advocates, there is still a lot of work to be done. The NGLTF Creating Change conference gives advocates the ability to attend workshops, training sessions, and networking events where they can learn how best to build and bring political power back home. And they’re not just discussing gay rights; an important issue on the agenda is immigration reform and the passing of the DREAM Act.
“With your help we will continue the journey to perfect our union,” concluded Obama in his video statement. “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.”