WASHINGTON – Phoenix resident Armando Robles didn’t have tickets to any of Monday’s inaugural events and didn’t have a hotel reservation, but he was not about to let that keep him from showing up at the inauguration.
Robles and his partner said they were determined to show their support for President Barack Obama because the president had shown such strong support for the gay community.
“We came on a wing and a prayer,” Robles said. “This is historic in many ways. Obama has accepted what I am, who I am as a gay man. I’m honored to be here celebrating someone who celebrates me.”
He was not disappointed: In his inaugural address Monday, Obama stressed equality, explicitly pointing to gay rights as an area where more work needs to be done in his second term.
“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” Obama said.
Robles did not vote for Obama in 2008 – writing in Hillary Clinton, instead – but changed his mind after seeing the president’s efforts to promote equality in the gay community. He specifically pointed to the president’s repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a policy that prohibited openly gay or lesbian men and women from serving in the military, as well as Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage.
Robles said he believes that Obama being elected for a second term has loosened up Arizona a little. The state takes the president more seriously this time around, he said.
Heather Stewart from Mesa agreed with Robles. She was in Washington to march in the inaugural parade as part of the Lesbian and Gay Band Association.
“People are getting informed and hopefully coming to an understanding of what’s going around,” Stewart said. “I am confident that things will turn around, especially with a solid president.”
Stewart was making her first appearance with the band Monday. But the band had performed once before, marching in Obama’s 2009 parade as the first gay or lesbian group to participate in an inaugural celebration.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, who was in town for the inauguration, said he anticipates Arizona is on its way to becoming a less-conservative state. He praised the president’s inaugural speech for many of its points, including his mention of gay rights.
“I’m glad he took a stand on behalf of our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters,” Stanton said. “I think that the time has come and that … human rights and equal rights is incredibly important.”
For Robles, it was about more than just singling out one group.
“You can just feel he cares about the country and the people,” Robles said.
- Cronkite News Service reporter Connor Radnovich contributed to this report.