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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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AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, then come back to this discussion. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner is our guest. This is  Democracy Now! Back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Tony, I wanted to read a quote of yours from 2010 talking about the reaction by some in the gay rights movement to President Obama’s election. You said, "The minute they heard that Rick Warren was speaking at the inauguration,  LGBT people were saying, ’It’s over, he’s just like all the others.’ Let alone those who say there’s no difference between Republicans and Democrats, which I think is glib and profoundly dangerous. What frightens me is that I feel that we’re in the process of dismantling the coalition of constituencies that brought Obama to the White House." Your response now, on this morning after President Obama made the statement that he supports same-sex marriage?

TONY KUSHNER: Well, I mean, Juan, you had mentioned, you know, Richard Kim, who I respect enormously. But, you know, immediately, I think it appeared on his blog last night, you know, that the states’ rights part of Obama’s interview meant that, you know, he was sort of reinforcing one of the particularly catastrophic aspects of the—or difficult and burdensome aspects of the struggle for marriage equality. It didn’t surprise me that the President felt that he needed to throw that in. I wish he hadn’t felt that he needed to. Again, I don’t think anyone could really argue that Obama fails to understand that this is not a state’s issue and that he’s not a states’ rightist, by any means.

You know, what worries me now is that it felt to me—and I think the evidence backs it up—that in 2008, part of what got Obama elected was a coalition that had really been forming after—almost immediately after—the 2000 election, and it didn’t succeed in getting Kerry elected, but it got—it began the process of building a very strong nationwide network of on-the-ground support for Democratic candidates, and it continued to build after 2004 all the way to 2008. The idea that we are going to be able to sort of grudgingly say, you know, in September or October, "OK, I guess it’s going to be Obama, so let’s, you know, start to support him then," it’s not enough. It’s going to be a close election. The dangers of a Romney presidency are very real. People should take the—I think people have forgotten 1980 and the sort of way that, you know, even in the early months of 1980, the possibility of a Reagan presidency seemed like, you know, so far-fetched. It was like a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Nobody could believe that that could happen. And then, you know, cut to November. And I think we have to take it seriously. And I keep meeting people in the left, progressive people, who say, "Well, Obama is going to win. I’ll send him a check later. I’ll do something later." This is, I think, a life-and-death struggle, not just for this country, but for the planet.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, but, Tony, some—some gay activists have criticized the movement’s focus on same-sex marriage, saying it’s sidelined issues like economic and racial justice. Transgender activist  Kalil Cohen spoke on Democracy Now! in February after an appeals court struck down California’s same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8.

KALIL COHEN: Well, I’ve been active in the movement to establish same-sex marriage as a trans activist with Trans Equality L.A., which was a group here in L.A. that was advocating for marriage. But I think my biggest concern is how much resources in the  LGBTQ movement have been funneled towards marriage equality alone, and away from basic survival that a lot  LGBTQ people still face, such as lack of access to education, healthcare, housing and criminal justice reform. And these are issues that have really taken a backseat to marriage equality, and that has harmed the most vulnerable members of our community, and whereas marriage equality is what’s helping the people who are already doing OK, who are mostly affluent, mostly white gay and lesbian folks.

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