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Playwright Tony Kushner Hails Obama’s Support for Same-Sex Marriage: "I Felt the Earth Move"

In an historic announcement, President Obama has become the first U.S. president to support same-sex marriage. We get reaction from acclaimed playwright and activist Tony Kushner.

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Tony Kushner and his now-husband Mark Harris were the fist same-sex couple to be featured in the  Vows column in the  New York Times. The article was published in May of 2003, after they held a commitment ceremony. In 2008, they were legally married.

Tony Kushner, welcome back to  Democracy Now!

TONY KUSHNER: Thanks. Nice to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you feel today after President Obama’s announcement yesterday that he supports same-sex marriage?

TONY KUSHNER: I feel great. It was—I watched it with Mark at home in the middle of the afternoon when  ABC released it, and I was—I mean, I said to Mark, you know, "I felt the earth move." I mean, it’s one of those moments that you’ve—where you feel a corner being rounded and actual change, or the groundwork for change, being prepared. It’s been astonishing to watch over the years the slow but steady progress of marriage rights and, in general, of the enfranchisement of the  LGBT community. It’s at a pace that’s faster than I honestly anticipated it would be. And it’s incredibly moving to see the President of the United States—in my opinion, a great president—becoming the first president to say that same-sex couples should be given the—should have the legal right to marry. And I’m very proud of him, if that’s not a silly thing to say. I think he’s an extraordinary man, and I’m—I feel very, very excited and very moved, so...

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the choice—his choice to do it at this particular point? Because the  New York Times has a long  article today about the in—

TONY KUSHNER: Yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —the battles within the administration, that basically this decision had been made that he was going to make the announcement sometime before the Democratic convention to avoid being seen on the wrong side of a platform issue at the Democratic convention over marriage equality. Your sense of the timing, that he chose this particular time?

TONY KUSHNER: I mean, there’s a lot that we won’t probably ever know. I mean, I don’t believe that it’s the case that Vice President Biden’s comments or Arne Duncan’s comments sort of forced the President to make this. I have a fair degree of certainty that Biden made the comments, having, you know, been given permission, at least, to speak his mind on the subject. He’s a wonderful guy and a great politician. And I suspect that it was—

AMY GOODMAN: The possibility that it was a trial balloon?

TONY KUSHNER: You know, I don’t know how these—I’ve never been—

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Or an orchestrated rollout?

TONY KUSHNER: Not entirely orchestrated. It wasn’t—I wouldn’t call it a "rollout," but it was something along those lines. I think that there’s enough coherence within the administration to make it somewhat unlikely that Obama was blindsided by Biden sort of saying, you know, off the cuff. There’s no evidence that this caused a sort of a—you know, a sort of crisis within the White House.

I think that there were people who were saying before, making analogies between Lincoln and Obama on this issue, and that he allowed other people in the administration to say things that he felt politically he couldn’t afford to say. I think there are a lot of—everything I do now is sort of filtered through Abraham Lincoln, but he’s been a very useful filter, I think, in thinking about the administration, the Obama administration. And I think that there’s a very interesting parallel between the 1864 election that Lincoln faced and the election that Obama is now moving into. I don’t think that same-sex marriage has the same prominence at all that emancipation had, obviously, in the heart of the Civil War, but it’s important for us to understand that there are issues that a progressive president may feel he has to articulate in a way that’s less than satisfactory. If Obama had said yesterday, "I’m still evolving," I would have been completely fine with that. I don’t ask that he declare support for same-sex marriage before he goes up against Romney.

 
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