I had just hit SEND on an email to my editor containing yesterday’s article regarding North Carolina’s decision to pass Amendment 1, a ban on same-sex marriage, when the news hit my desk… President Obama supports same-sex marriage. I read it twice for good measure… President Obama supports same-sex marriage!
My emotions were split. I was elated the President finally took a stand in favor of marriage equality but I was honestly surprised he didn’t continue to weave his way around the issue. A few minutes passed and my elation took over, leaving any doubt of his support behind.
I raced home, turned on cable news and tried to absorb as much of Obama’s interview with “Good Morning America’s” Robin Roberts as I could. I listened as commentators lauded his decision to lend his support to the cause and I watched as opponents painted him as a flip-flopper, a political opportunist and a president who has declared a “war on marriage.”
And I continued to listen as opponents declared his presidency over. They touted this issue would once again decide the election, reminiscent of 2004. I started laughing. I laughed so hard at every good, bad or indifferent reaction I witnessed on television. No matter what was said, I laughed. There would be no political spin in my house that night. Nothing could be said that would detract from the incredible news I just heard.
I heard quite a few television pundits ask does this even matter? What’s the big deal? After such a setback in North Carolina, the LGBT community and our supporters needed to hear news of this magnitude. We needed to hear that our love matters, that our fight for equal rights is a just battle and having it validated by the President of the United States serves as a reminder that victory is within reach.
Having the president’s validation may not mean much to most people in this country and many will brush it off as political pandering but it does mean something. Actually, it means more than just something. It stands to prove that the battle for marriage equality is on the right track. When no other president, regardless of personal beliefs, would take a stand and fight for equality, this president did. Politically speaking, he’s taking quite a risk. No one knows how this will unfold throughout the election cycle. Either way, same-sex marriage will be an issue but whether it’s a deciding issue, well… that remains to be seen.
Then there’s the argument that Obama flip-flopped on this issue, that he was vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage prior to today. Quite honesty… I don’t care. I turn to the Oleta Adams song, “Get Here” to answer that one: “I don’t care how you get here, just get here if you can.” I’m not interested in his evolution on this issue. I’m just content he showed up at all.
Let’s be honest here, the president won’t be pushing any same-sex marriage legislation in the near future. He still advocates that marriage laws should be left up for the states to decide. Today’s news reflected Obama’s personal opinion on the matter. That’s it, nothing else. While that might disappoint some, it should also remind us that there’s a lot more work to be done. This fight didn’t end on Wednesday.
Regardless of anyone’s opinion on yesterday’s news, the fact remains that history was made. Whether it goes down as a slight blip on the radar or a watershed moment, the president’s words were meant to support a movement. He was the first sitting president who called for marriage equality and that IS history.
In the American political system, we end up with candidates who continually vacillate on nearly every issue. That is why it’s important to recognize leadership when it appears before us. President Obama might be late for the party, but he did, in fact, show up. He will be forever associated with the battle for marriage equality and whether he wins or loses this November because of his support for equality is up to us.
In theory, all of us want our leaders to believe in what we believe. We want them to be replicas of ourselves and push legislation that is important to us. In reality, our political leaders are rarely in sync with our own beliefs. But on those rare moments when they truly take a stand and support us in our struggle, it’s time to tip the hat in acknowledgment of such leadership.
Thank you, Mr. President.