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Glenn Greenwald: Why It's Epically Important That Obama Endorsed Gay Marriage

One can quibble with Obama's rationale. But one cannot reasonably question the importance of his act.

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Perhaps the least quantifiable impact of Obama's statement is the most important one: it is a powerful message to gay youth that their sexual orientation is neither a flaw nor an abnormality. As White wrote yesterday:

"The stigma of being gay drove my age-mates and me toward drink, suicide and years on the psychoanalytic couch in an effort to go straight. We were wracked with self-hatred, which blighted so many lives of our friends."

This stigma, devastating in so many ways, is surely lessened when the nation's highest elected official advocates for full legality for same-sex couples.

This week, gay Americans and their allies predictably, and understandably, expressed their glee, along with a not insubstantial amount of shock, at seeing their full legal equality publicly embraced by an American president. But the reaction of the right wing is more telling. Obama's GOP opponent,  Mitt Romney, re-affirmed his opposition to both same-sex marriage and civil unions, but did so with reserved rhetoric and a  very tepid tone, betraying a belief that same-sex marriage – once an electoral gold mine for his party – is unlikely to hurt Obama's electoral chances.

US media coverage Thursday has been fixated on the micro aspects of Obama's announcement: his motives, how it will affect the election, the role that internal administrative divisions played in his decision. But 20 years from now, none of that will matter. The historic event is that same-sex marriage, for the first time, now has a supporter in the Oval Office.

There are many disappointments and truly bad acts for which President Obama is responsible, but for one day at least, on this single issue, he demonstrated authentic and important leadership on a civil rights issue that affects millions.


Glenn Greenwald is a Constitutional law attorney and chief blogger at Unclaimed Territory . His forthcoming book, How Would a Patriot Act: Defending American Values from a President Run Amok will be released by Working Assets Publishing next month.

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