As he entered his second term as U.S. President, Barack Obama stressed the need to modernize American values through changes such as a redefinition of marriage.

The American journey "is not complete," Obama said on Jan. 21, until gay individuals have their unions "treated like anyone else under the law."

He argued that "gay marriage" is necessary for equality, "for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."

In his second inaugural address, the president promoted "same-sex marriage" as a basic civil right, such as those that women and African Americans fought for throughout history.

Obama discussed the need to "defend our people and uphold our values" while moving forward on a "never-ending journey" of progress.

Americans have always been united by "our allegiance to an idea," he said, but "we have always understood that when times change, so must we."

Citing assertions by the Declaration of Independence that all men are "endowed by their Creator" with the rights of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," Obama stressed the need "to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time."

While acknowledging that "freedom is a gift from God," he added that fidelity to our founding documents "does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way."

The president pointed to the progress that the nation has made in the areas of slavery, infrastructure and education. To continue in this progress, he said, America must promote cultural values, such as "care for the vulnerable" and an acceptance of gay "rights."

He also emphasized the need for cooperation, particularly on subjects such as the struggling economy and immigration reform.

Absent from Obama's speech – delivered just one day before the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade – was any mention of abortion. Also missing was any reference to the controversial contraception mandate that has attracted lawsuits from more than 100 plaintiffs across the country.

Instead, the president focused on the need to constantly advance "those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice."

He praised the "star" of equality that guided the American forbearers at "Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall," likening the gay advocacy riots to the historic milestones in the movements for women's suffrage and civil rights.

Obama's support of same-sex "marriage" was hailed by gay advocacy groups last May when he became the first sitting president to endorse such unions.

Controversy over the president's stance on marriage was recently rekindled when the Christian pastor originally picked to deliver the inaugural benediction resigned from the post amid heavy criticism for a sermon he delivered in the 1990s describing homosexuality as a sin.

In his inaugural speech, Obama also emphasized the importance of protecting the most vulnerable in society.

Arguing that "every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity," he stated that even the poorest of Americans should be secure, knowing that they are free and "equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own."

In addition, he highlighted America's obligations "to all posterity," ensuring, among other things, that children "know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm."

Returning to the nation's founding documents, Obama urged that their words be taken seriously.

The task of our generation, he said, is "to make these words, these rights, these values – of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – real for every American."