John Riley | Metro Weekly | January 12, 2016
LGBT inclusion will be on full display during President Obama’s last State of the Union address Tuesday, even if in a subtle way. Appearing in the First Lady’s viewing box will be two openly gay men that First Lady Michelle Obama has invited as special guests for the televised address.
The men, Jim Obergefell and Ryan Reyes, will be among 23 special guests seated with the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. A 24th seat will be left vacant in honor of the victims of gun violence, as a symbol of the toll that gun-related violence has had on the country in the past few years, and to serve as a reminder of President Obama’s recent executive actions on gun control.
But it is not just the vacant chair that is symbolic: for the past three decades, the First Lady has invited particular guests who represent and can, through their presence, highlight some of the president’s major initiatives, accomplishments, or values. According to the White House website, “the individuals who will be seated in the guest box tell the story of the progress we have made since the President delivered his first address seven years ago — from a terrible economic recession and two costly wars, to a revitalized and thriving economy and renewed American leadership abroad.”