BREAKING: Obama used the M-Word

Haaaallelujah! Haaaallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! And the Cherubim and Seraphim descended from on high and encircled the south portico of the White House, each one ablaze with Divine Love for President Barack Obama. Nine holy orders of angels alit in Michelle’s vegetable garden, and sang heavenly praises of partisan glory and social justice, for today, only three and a half years into this his most HOPE-ful presidency, Obama has supported gay marriage.

“I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” he told ABC News this afternoon. He did it. He used The M-Word.

President Obama, up to his chin in SPECIAL REPORTage.

This afternoon I read dozens of tweets that began, “BREAKING” or “BREAKING NEWS,” followed by this straightforward, if rather reserved, expression of support for gay marriage. Obama went on to describe an “evolution” (cue Intelligent Design outrage, panty-bunching) in his thinking on this issue since the 2008 presidential race.

Now, don’t get me wrong—this is a landmark moment, to be sure. A watershed, even. Obama is the first president in our history to state in no uncertain terms that gay marriage should exist. That is, quote, “same-sex couples should be able to get married,” unquote. Wow.

Joe “The Gaffe” Biden

And yet, I’m stirred to ask, why is this so earth-shattering? Marriage is a right and a privilege afforded to any pair of heterosexual American adults, from the WASPs at St. Patrick’s on 5th Ave to the drunks at St. Elvis’s (or whatever) on The Strip. Why should it be such an elating shock—and yet, truly, it is—that our president even so much as thinks that gay marriage should be legal? Even Joe Biden was more forthright, poking his head out from wherever they keep him to say on NBC’s Meet the Press, “I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.” Rights? Liberties!? Get out!

In response, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney issued an equivocal “Shhh!” in that little blue room they have for just such occasions.

The last Democrat in office, President Clinton, signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, which defined “marriage” as the legal union of one man and one woman. Eight years later, ol’ Dubya advocated further fortifying DOMA—you know, just in case! In 2011, the Obama administration declared that it found DOMA to be unconstitutional, but where it stands now is a sort of legislative Purgatorio—it will continue to be enforced, but will no longer be defended in court. Huh?

In late September of last year, the U.S. Military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy—yet another piece of anti-gay legislation signed into law by our 42nd president—was repealed under Obama. And yet, during the 2008 election, Obama’s stance on gay marriage was noncommittal at best.

I voted for Obama in 2008, for a number of reasons. Not the least of these reasons was the Obama campaign’s marked lack of antagonism, if not wealth of support, toward LGBT rights. LGBT Americans were faced with a choice between certain discrimination—that is to say, future legislation in active opposition to our personal rights and freedoms—and a tacit presidential acceptance of the same discrimination we as a community already face. Many of us found ourselves, as it were, between Barack and a hard place.

And but so here we are, nearly four years hence, and President Obama says to Robin Roberts and the nation, “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” It is earth-shattering, whether or not it really should be, and the man has my vote.

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3 comments
  1. Sid said:

    I wish I knew if it was a moral stand or a calculated political risk, since I doubt he was getting many votes from the homophobic crowd in any event. But as you say, it is still a victory.

    • In either case, if this particular stance loses him the election we have much bigger, much scarier fish to fry.

      • SidC said:

        Totally agreed. And to be clear, I am still an Obama supporter regardless. I think I was echoing your ambivalence about elation. 2008 was the first time I voted in decades, mostly because my one vote in a federal election is statistically highly unlikely to change the outcome. But when it was Obama versus McCain, there was so much at stake that I simply had to vote on principal. When was the last time we had a presidential candidate who offered to at least try for hope and change, and seemed even remotely capable of pulling it off?

        I *know* that you reach for the stars and should be happy if you get to the moon. Rationally and pragmatically, I don’t think Obama could have done any better, and in fact, given the 2010 elections, it is a miracle he has accomplished anything. Emotionally, I hoped for more, like a kid who believes in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. But coming back to reality, pragmatism was absolutely necessary and he would have accomplished nothing without it.

        So the ambivalence and angst is probably much less about Obama than it is about utter dismay at the irrational and polarized political system we now confront, and a sadness that Obama proved that no amount of compromise from the left would have been able to find common ground. To the right, common ground has become a reason to move further right. The only thing that keeps me from utter despair is that the US did, almost unbelievably, elect him in 2008.

        And I can only hope that the people who put him in office then have not given up. Our own individual votes do still decide elections (usually, but that is a different area of concern) and are the only protection left after the Supreme Court decision on corporate donations to super pacs.

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