It's Great That Obama Endorsed Same Sex-Marriage -- But What Now?
On Wednesday, less than 24 hours after North Carolina's passage of the discriminatory Amendment One which bans gay marriage and curbs civil unions, President Obama announced his support of same-sex marriage in an interview with ABC.
Earlier in the day, the rumors began to circulate that this kind of announcement was coming. But nothing was confirmed until the 3pm publication of the attention-grabbing, much-sought-after headline: "Obama: 'Same-Sex Marriage Should be Legal' followed by "President says his position on marriage has evolved."
The president's actual words in the interview "…it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married." He also credited his family for helping him move forward on the position.
Shorly therafter, Rick Jacobs, President of the Courage Campaign, emailed supporters that "this day will go down in history as the beginning of the end of legalized discrimination against LGBT people in America." It is the first time a sitting president has come out for marriage equality.
The President's "evolution" on the issue is not entirely linear. Back when he was a younger, more radical politician, he endorsed gay marriage on a questionnaire, then reversed course for what appeared to be political expediency.
Richard Kim at the Nation wants us to focus on the actual impact of these historic words, legal rights-wise: none.
Obama, however, stopped short of lending full support to the multi-state legal and political campaign for marriage equality. According to ABC News, the President stressed that his is a “personal position,” and he continues to think that states should decide the issue independently.
Indeed, the White House's talking points, leaked and reported on BuzzFeed, read "We make it absolutely clear that we are talking about civil marriages and civil laws. This isn’t a federal issue."
These reminders are sobering. And of course, they feed into another sobering point: actual policy, far more than words, has the lion's share of impact on the civil rights for LGBTQ Americans.
Sadly, in that area our nation has so much room for improvement it's not funny. Couples with and without state marriage rights have to jump through hurdles for adoption, hospital rights, taxes. State-level budget austerity leads to cuts in shelter programs for LGBTQ kids who are kicked out of their homes. Bullying and teen suicide remain a plague. Outright homophobia persists in and beyond ultra-religious circles. The scourge of killings and beatings of transgender individuals is abetted by the lack of encoded protections (in ENDA and elsewhere) for them. Gay couples whose love crosses international borders don't have the benefit of being able to marry for citizenship. All of these issues and many more affect the day to day lives of LGBTQ citizens--as do the currently dire issues of poverty, reproductive rights, and civil liberties--and need desperately to be addressed.
Still, culture resonates, and activists need wind in their sails to get things done. So Obama's position as an influencer of the zeitgeist, a rock star and celebrity in many circles, a charismatic leader and an eloquent spokesman for the causes he chooses to champion shouldn't be entirely underestimated either. Young questioning and LGBT people watching TV or reading the web will know that the president supports them. So will their parents. There's a dignity conferred by the President's statement, and that's important.
So here's to a whole lot more "evolution" for the President, his advisors, the GOP, and the rest of the country on this issue. We're already evolving at a rapid rate, after all, as MSNBC'sfirst read points out, the polls on the issue have totally reversed in a few short years:
Same-sex marriage is hardly the hot-button issue it was compared to the last decade, though. Support for it now eclipses opposition; 49 percent of Americans said that favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry, according to the March NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, while 40 percent oppose it. (In October 2009, 49 percent opposed same-sex marriages, while 41 percent supported them.)
Crucially, that shifting number includes political independents--which may have figured into the President's calculations.
As our evolution continues, amuse yourself with The Daily Show's poking fun of the administration's juggling and flip-flopping on gay marriage, which aired last night: