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.
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.
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.