Happy New Year, lovely ladies! We have many important topics related to gay marriage and lesbian weddings to discuss this year – what we’ll wear for our big days, stylish and money-saving DIY wedding projects, and whether to have a bridal registry – just to name a few. I promise, we will get to all of those. But for this week, I think we need to focus on a matter almost as serious as white satin gowns and red velvet cakes: the leader of the free world is reconsidering his stance on gay marriage.
That’s right — President Barack Obama, who has said since his presidential campaign days that he supports civil unions, but not full marriage equality, told reporters in late December that his views on whether same-sex marriage should be legalized are “evolving.”
“I struggle with this,” Obama said. “I have friends, I have people who work for me, who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. And they are extraordinary people, and this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about.”
That comment sounds a lot to me like the feeble rationalization white people often use to justify some antiquated racist view or off-color remark: “I have lots of black friends.” (OK, first of all, if you’re making racist comments, you probably don’t have any black friends, and second of all, having black friends does not entitle you to make racist comments).
But, I digress. It appears Mr. President went and got himself a few gay friends, and now he’s starting to think we might be worthy of equal rights under the law. Interestingly, this is not the first time Obama’s changed his mind about the whole gay marriage issue. Back in 1996, when Obama was virtually unknown and running for a seat in the Illinois Senate, he went on record in support of gay marriage.
“I favor legalizing same-sex marriages,” Obama wrote in response to a primary election questionnaire from Chicago’s Windy City Times.
Seems pretty cut and dry to me. But, as the charismatic politician ascended to the national scene, he did what most seasoned statesmen do – he backed off of any views that might make him unpopular with the masses. In 2004, Obama was interviewed once again by the Windy City Times. This time, he was making a bid for the U.S. Senate, and apparently he didn’t think supporting gay marriage would help him get to Washington. He told the paper:
Really? A few years ago, you were fine with the idea of same-sex marriage, but now that it’s politically inconvenient, separate but equal ought to do just fine, huh?
Obama stuck with his stance in support of civil unions through his 2008 presidential campaign. Here we had the first-ever African American candidate for president advocating for separate-but-equal treatment of a group of citizens. How disgustingly ironic. Maybe it was his good looks or his eloquent prose, but somehow, many gay people and our allies bought it hook, line and sinker.
Yeah, yeah, I know we didn’t necessarily have a better option, and the historical importance of the first African American being elected president of the United States is not lost on me. But in my fantasy world, America’s first black president would have placed greater importance on some of the lessons learned during the civil rights (namely that separate but equal is morally repugnant and undemocratic). As excited as I was to see George W. Bush back in Texas where he belongs, and as happy as I was that America had elected such an intelligent and liberal leader, Obama’s election and subsequent presidency has been bittersweet for me (as I’m guessing it has been for many of you).
But, here’s the point: Obama is waffling on the issue of gay marriage, and I think we should use this opportunity to encourage him to do the right thing. I think we need to put the full-court press on our commander in chief. We have to let him know that we may have blindly given our support back in 2008, but if he wants our campaign contributions and our votes in 2012, he’s going to have to work for them.
I don’t know if Obama really has any gay friends, and I don’t care. I’m sure someone of the superior intellect that our president clearly possesses would not need any gay friends to enlighten him to the fact that people should not be denied basic rights simply because they happen to love someone who has the same private parts. I’d be willing to bet that Obama has no personal opposition to same-sex marriage, and I’m sure he’s admitted it to confidantes behind closed doors. But, that is not good enough. When you have as much power and influence as Barack Obama, it’s the opinions you voice in public that matter. Obviously, Obama’s public support of same-sex marriage won’t magically make it legal, but it will change many, many hearts and minds — which is just as important in this battle.
Gay marriage is going to be legalized – hopefully during our lifetime. And just like with the civil rights movement (the very one that made it possible for Obama to seek the office he holds), the people who stood on the side of equality and those who clung to outdated bigotry will be recorded in the history books. I think it would be a shame if a man as brilliant and forward-thinking as Obama had to go down in history as a hypocrite.
Mr. President, it’s time for you to do the right thing and come out in support of same-sex marriage. If standing on the right side of history isn’t enough of an incentive, just think of all of those gay wedding invitations you’ll get!
What do you think? Will you support Barack Obama in 2012 if he doesn’t push for full marriage equality? Or will you be content with the president’s continued support of civil unions as a matter of political prudence?