Barack Obama made history today by becoming the first president to come out in support of the legalization of same sex marriage. After Obama’s endorsement today, the political debate over same sex marriage will never be the same.
Here is the video from ABC News:
The president said, “I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have 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 are 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.”
The initial reaction from the LGBT community has been swift and positive, “President Obama’s words today will be celebrated by generations to come,” said AFER Board President Chad Griffin. “For the millions of young gay and lesbian Americans across this nation, their President’s words provide genuine hope that they will be the first generation to grow up with the freedom to fully pursue the American dream. Marriage—the promise of love, companionship, and family—is basic to the pursuit of that dream. Our Constitution’s promise, the promise of liberty, is one that every generation must realize. As President Obama recognized today, the fight to secure marriage equality is the defining element of our generation’s search for greater freedom.”
In contrast to the president’s position, Mitt Romney is still trying to play to his bigoted base, “My view is the domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights and the like are appropriate but that the others are not.”
Supporters of same sex marriage suffered a sad defeat in North Carolina last night, but they were quickly provided a dose of hope and optimism by the president’s statements today.
President Obama may support same sex marriage, but the political hurdles remain. Republicans in Congress will not let any legislation pass as long as they have the control or power to obstruct same sex marriage. President Obama was the easiest piece of the puzzle for same sex marriage advocates. Their job now is to elect members of Congress who give President Obama a same sex marriage bill to sign.
No matter what the short term outcome, Barack Obama has become the first president of the United States to support legalizing same sex marriage. Obama’s remarks are a watershed moment in the battle for marriage equality. President Bill Clinton opened the door to Executive Branch waffling on the issue with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and with Romney having to tack to the right on this issue, Obama could have survived taking a middle path.
Politically, he didn’t need to make the bold move of supporting legalization right now, but as this president has demonstrated time and time again, he often puts doing what’s right ahead of his own political well being.
Unlike Mitt Romney, Barack Obama knows that supporting same sex marriage is the morally right thing to do. This isn’t about politics. This is about people. Vice President Biden’s comments may have moved up the timeline for the announcement of Obama’s support, but that support was coming all along. Gay marriage is not a religious issue. It’s a civil rights issues, and President Obama’s comments today will be the benchmark by which all future presidents will be measured.
The same sex marriage political debate will never be the same again, because Barack Obama spoke up. The president’s words matter more than any other elected official, and his unequivocal support for the legalization of same sex marriage is a game changer, even if the political Luddites on the right remain far behind.