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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.


The following is a transcript of a Democracy Now! interview with playwright and activist Tony Kushner on Obama's historic endorsement of same-sex marriage.

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. In 2003, he and his partner became the first same-sex couple to appear in the Vows section of the New York Times. "I felt the earth move," Kushner says. "It’s one of those moments where you feel a corner being rounded and the 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  LGBTcommunity. It’s at a pace that’s faster than I honestly anticipated it would be. And it’s incredibly moving." 

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Advocates of same-sex marriage are hailing President Obama’s decision to publicly declare his support for marriage equality, becoming the first U.S. president to do so. Obama spoke out on the issue three days after NBC aired an interview with Vice President Joe Biden saying he was "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriage. Since taking office, Obama has backed civil unions for same-sex couples, but not marriage. In a moment, we’ll be joined by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and longtime gay rights activist Tony Kushner, but first we turn to the President’s comments Wednesday.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I had hesitated on gay marriage, in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient, that that was something that would give people hospital visitation rights and other elements that we take for granted. And I was sensitive to the fact that, for a lot of people, you know, the word "marriage" was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs, and so forth. But I have to tell you that over the course of several years, as I talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed, monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf, and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is gone, because they’re not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that, for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: President Obama speaking on  ABC News on Wednesday.

Obama’s comments have been criticized by some proponents of same-sex marriage for essentially endorsing a "states’ rights" approach to the issue. Richard Kim of  The Nation magazine writes, quote, "Obama essentially preserves the current status quo in which a handful of states recognize same-sex marriage and many states have constitutional bans against them."

In an interview with  Mother Jones magazine, an administration source said of Obama, quote, "He has always said that it is a state issue, and he’s not suggesting changing that. He did not support the North Carolina amendment, but he’s not saying he will bring up a piece of federal legislation on gay marriage."

AMY GOODMAN: Joining us now is the acclaimed playwright, the screenwriter, the gay rights activist, Tony Kushner. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his landmark 1992 play,  Angels in America. The play was set in New York in the midst of the 1980s when  AIDS was devastating the gay community. His other plays include Homebody/KabulCaroline, or Change and A Bright Room Called Day. He is currently working on a screenplay for a Steven Spielberg movie about Abraham Lincoln.

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