(WB) The inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris took place at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday amid unprecedented security and the coronavirus pandemic.
Chief Justice John Roberts swore in Biden on the west front of the Capitol shortly before noon. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor administered the oath of office to Harris.
Lady Gaga sang the National Anthem, while Amanda Gorman was this year’s inaugural poet. Jennifer Lopez, Garth Brooks, Rev. Silvester Beaman the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Del., and former Georgetown University President Rev. Leo O’Donovan also took part.
Former President Trump and former first lady Melania Trump left D.C. before the scaled-down inauguration took place.
Former Vice President Pence attended alongside former Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton. Biden in his inaugural speech said he spoke with former President Carter on Tuesday.
Biden did not specifically reference LGBT rights, but he is set to sign an executive order later on Wednesday that will direct federal government agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Bostock case that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace. Biden in the coming days is also expected to reverse the Trump administration’s ban on openly transgender service members.
Biden noted “a cry for racial justice, some four hundred years in the making moves.”
“The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer,” he said.
Biden also highlighted Harris is the first woman elected vice president. Harris is also the first Black and South Asian person to hold the office.
“Don’t tell me things can’t change,” said Biden.
The inauguration took place two weeks after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol.
Biden in his speech noted “a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.”
“With unity, we can do great things, important things,” he said. “We can right wrongs. We can put people to work in good jobs. We can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome the deadly virus. We can reward, reward work and rebuild the middle class and make health care security for all. We can deliver racial justice and we can make America once again the leading force for good in the world.”
Biden also held a moment of silence for the more than 400,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus.
“Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now,” he said. “A once-in-a-century virus that silently stalks the country. It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II. Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed.”
LGBT groups on Wednesday welcomed the new administration into office.
“A new day has begun in our nation,” said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David in a statement. “The pro-equality future so many of us fought for decades is closer than ever before.”
Biden, Harris House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Secretary of Transportation-designate Pete Buttigieg are among those who are expected to participate in HRC’s virtual inauguration celebration on Wednesday.
GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis in her statement said Wednesday “is a new page in history for our country and the LGBTQ community as a place where all belong, all can be safe and all can succeed.”
“Governor John Carney said it yesterday — Joe Biden was born for this moment,” tweeted Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride, who is the first openly transgender person elected to a state senate in the U.S. “I can’t wait to call him my president.”
“Today, the United States of America swore in the most pro-equality president and vice president in the 244-year history of our republic,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur. “President Joe Biden took the first step on our nation’s long overdue path toward healing, invoking our shared history of overcoming struggle and citing the words of President Lincoln in an emphatic appeal for unity.”
Zbur in his statement also applauded Harris.
“From Fannie Lou Hamer to Shirley Chisholm, Geraldine Ferraro to Hillary Clinton to today, the inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris is a historic feat in the long struggle to break through the hardest, highest glass ceiling in our American democracy,” said Zur. “A Black, South Asian daughter of immigrants ascending to the nation’s second-highest office — the first woman to do so — will forever inspire children across the country and around the world.”
Virginia state Del. Danica Roem, the first openly trans woman elected to any state legislature in the U.S., also celebrated Harris and Biden.
“Our new day,” tweeted Roem.
DC placed under lockdown ahead of inauguration
The inauguration took place two weeks after the Capitol insurrection.
Authorities in the days leading up to the inauguration limited vehicular access to large swaths of downtown D.C. Upwards of 25,000 National Guard troops were also deployed to the nation’s capital.
Troops marched up 14th Street near Franklin Square less than three hours before the inauguration.
Security checkpoints, fencing and barricades remain in place throughout downtown D.C.
“Democracy is fragile; and at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” said Biden in his inaugural speech. “So now, on this hallowed ground where just days ago violence sought to shake this Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.”
The lockdown did not deter some from gathering downtown for the inauguration.
A group of D.C. residents, reporters and other passersby gathered in front of the Penn Quarter Sports Tavern on Indiana Avenue, N.W., to watch the inauguration. Terry Kelly, a registered nurse from Durham, N.C., told the Washington Blade he came to the nation’s capital because he “wanted to see Trump fly out of here.”
“I’m looking forward to return to normalcy and some peace and quiet,” said Kelly.
Kaela Roeder contributed to this article.