Frank Rich contrasted the bravery of Stonewall rioters—mostly street kids who'd been thrown out of their homes by their parents—with the cowardice of President Obama. Unlike their contemporaries, student anti-war protesters, the kids at Stonewall didn't have dorms to go back and student meal plans and parents willing to speak to them much less bail them out of jail. They had "no powerful allies of any kind, no rights, no future." But they had something President Obama lacks: courage.

No president possesses that magic wand, but Obama’s inaction on gay civil rights is striking. So is his utterly uncharacteristic inarticulateness. The Justice Department brief defending DOMA has spoken louder for this president than any of his own words on the subject. Chrisler noted that he has given major speeches on race, on abortion and to the Muslim world. “People are waiting for that passionate speech from him on equal rights,” she said, “and the time is now.”

Action would be even better. It’s a press cliché that “gay supporters” are disappointed with Obama, but we should all be. Gay Americans aren’t just another political special interest group. They are Americans who are actively discriminated against by federal laws. If the president is to properly honor the memory of Stonewall, he should get up to speed on what happened there 40 years ago, when courageous kids who had nothing, not even a public acknowledgment of their existence, stood up to make history happen in the least likely of places.

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