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Equality is 'the essence of who we are'

by Jeremy Hooper
This past winter, while I’d be working out, folks would come up to me and they would say, you know what, Mr. President, I just wanted to say how much I appreciate you Screen Shot 2012-06-07 At 10.46.46 Am repealing "don’t ask, don’t tell," because I’d been serving as a Marine for five years, for 10 years. There have been times where I haven’t been able to have my partner see me off as I’m being deployed. And for you to acknowledge me not just as a soldier, but somebody who is a full citizen and equal participant in the life of this country really makes a difference.

And I was telling folks at the hotel that after about four of these, the last day, a young man came up -- and first, he pointed out that I wasn’t doing the exercise right. (Laughter.) And then, he said, I want to thank you for repealing "don’t ask, don’t tell." And I was anticipating a similar story. And so I asked him, well, what kind of struggles have you been through being gay in uniform? He says, no, sir, I’m not gay. I want to thank you because I’ve had friends who were gay who were great Marines. And it always embarrassed me that somehow -- even though it didn’t matter to any of us in the unit -- they had to pretend to be something they weren’t. And this will make us better Marines and this will make us stronger as a country.

And that spirit is why I’m running for a second term, because I believe that’s the essence of who we are as a country. That’s what makes us special. That’s what we’re fighting for.

—President Barack Obama

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