“It’s a small step, but it’s significant,” he said. “Our goal is full voting rights, to have the same rights and privileges that every citizen has. The license plates don’t give us that.”
There are 632,000 residents in the city, more than two states, Vermont and Wyoming, according to census figures.
Mayor Vincent Gray thanked Obama for turning a spotlight on the city.
“I appreciate the president agreeing to bring attention to this important issue during the inauguration festivities,” Gray said.
The first two years of Obama’s presidency were the best opportunity to gain representation for D.C. with Democrats controlling Congress. In 2009, the Senate passed a bill to give D.C. a vote on the House floor. But Republican senators added an amendment to dismantle the city’s tight gun control laws. The bill ultimately died in the House.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district’s nonvoting member of Congress who has fought for full voting rights for decades, also cheered Obama’s move.
“Kudos to the president for agreeing to a small but larger than life sign of his commitment to the district and its residents,” she said. “Each step must be counted as bringing us closer to our full entitlement as American citizens who pay more than our fair share of federal taxes and have served in all the nation’s wars, always without the rights those obligations demand.”