President Barack Obama addressed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a leading civil rights organisation for ethnic minorities in the US, in New York yesterday.

In his speech, Obama addressed the issue of discrimination, calling for an end to prejudice against minority groups, specifically African-American women, Latinos, Muslim Americans, and gays and lesbians.

“The first thing we need to do is make real the words of your charter and eradicate prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination among citizens of the United States. I understand there may be a temptation among some to think that discrimination is no longer a problem in 2009. And I believe that overall, there probably has never been less discrimination in America than there is today,” he said.

“But make no mistake: the pain of discrimination is still felt in America. By African-American women paid less for doing the same work as colleagues of a different colour and a different gender. By Latinos made to feel unwelcome in their own country. By Muslim Americans viewed with suspicion simply because they kneel down to pray to their God. By our gay brothers and sisters, still taunted, still attacked, still denied their rights. On the 45th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, discrimination must not stand. Not on account of colour or gender; how you worship or who you love. Prejudice has no place in the United States of America.”

There has been considerable debate within the African American community in the US as to the comparison between the civil rights and gay rights movements. A number of African American leaders have come out against same-sex marriage while many in the gay community have called on African Americans to be more supportive of LGBT equality.

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