“No matter who you love or what God you love, you can still pursue your own happiness,” he told the nearly 600 graduates who gathered on Columbia University’s South Lawn after referencing the 1969 Stonewall riots. “I will be with you every step of the way.”
Obama joined Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson on stage less than a week after he announced his support for marriage equality during a White House interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts. Barnard also honored Care USA President Helene D. Gayle and chemistry professor Sally Chapman during the ceremony.
Retired New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith Kaye described Wolfson as a “hero for the charge of marriage equality” and a “champion for the cause of civil rights for all” before she presented Wolfson with Barnard’s Medal of Distinction.
“You have turned a once lonely march into a surging national movement,” she said to sustained applause. She further noted that the number of Americans who live in jurisdictions that allow nuptials for gays and lesbians more than doubled last June after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the state’s marriage equality bill into law. “The momentum in the direction of your dream Evan is positively undeniable. Today we hail your extraordinary influence and limitless commitment to every loving man and woman.”