He spoke Sunday evening a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in New York, the annual Democratic National Committee LGBT Gala at Gotham Hall, alluding to the recent case of Kim Davis as he told the crowd that,
“We affirm that we cherish our religious freedom and are profoundly respectful of religious traditions. But we also have to say clearly that our religious freedom doesn’t grant us the freedom to deny our fellow Americans their constitutional rights.”
“And that even as we are respectful and accommodating genuine concerns and interests of religious institutions, we need to reject politicians who are supporting new forms of discrimination as a way to scare up votes. That’s not how we move America forward.”
Ouch. Those words could have come right out of the mouth of Thomas Jefferson, who said, that “our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions,” and they were aimed right at the heart of the Republican message for 2016. There is not a candidate among them who does embrace discrimination in the name of religion.
Obama said that marriage equality can no longer be a wedge issue, because the country has made its decision and moved on from there:
“The good news is they probably won’t use marriage equality as a wedge issue like they did in 2004 because the country has come too far. In fact, America has left the leaders of the Republican Party behind.”
The President did not ignore the ridiculous posturing of the GOP’s 2016 presidential hopefuls, alluding to Ben Carson when he said,
“One of their leading candidates argued that going to prison turns you gay. Well, you think I’m — I shouldn’t go into this? No, I mean, I’m just stating the facts.”
He nailed Ted Cruz (R-TX), who pretends to be the Religious Freedom candidate, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who wants to occupy that same narrow-minded piece of real estate:
“Another candidate boasts that he introduced an amendment to end nationwide marriage equality — which isn’t even an accomplishment at all. A third says Americans should just disobey the Supreme Court’s ruling entirely. I’m sure he loves the Constitution — except for Article III. And maybe the Equal Protection Amendment. And the 14th Amendment, generally.”
Obama didn’t have to end the list of portions Republicans don’t approve of there. Safer to say the only parts they do like are the Second and Tenth Amendments. But he made his point, and throughout the night’s speech, he offered nothing but facts in the face of the relentless Republican assault on our freedoms.
He also tried to make sense of something all of us have noticed, that Republicans seem to be running against 2008, and not 2015, but Obama had a slightly different explanation:
In their world, everything was terrific back in 2008 when we were in the midst of a spiral into the worst financial crisis and economic crisis since the Great Depression, when unemployment and uninsured rates were rising and when our economy was shedding jobs each month, and we were mired in two wars, hopelessly addicted to foreign oil, and bin Laden was still at large,” Obama said.
Those were the Golden Years, apparently. And then, I came in and messed it all up.
You got to give these folks credit for chutzpah. And so since everything was doing so well back in 2007-2008, now if we can just repeal Obamacare, and gut Wall Street reform, and shut down our government over women’s access to health care, and deny that the planet is getting warmer, they’ve got a plan to get us back on track.
But the central theme of the evening was LGBT rights and the president hammered the point home:
Time after time, the cynics told us that we were foolish to keep believing, that we were naïve to hope, that change was too messy or not possible at all. And if you admit it, there were some in this room here who were skeptical that everything that needed to happen would happen. The cynics were wrong. Tonight, we live in an America where ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is something that ‘don’t exist.’
We live in an America where a growing share of older generations recognize that love is love, and younger generations don’t even know what all the fuss was about. And tonight, thanks to the unbending sense of justice passed down through generations of citizens who never gave up hope that we could bring this country closer to our founding ideals — that all of us are created equal — we now live in America where our marriages are equal as well.
We affirm that we cherish our religious freedom and are profoundly respectful of religious traditions. But we also have to say clearly that our religious freedom doesn’t grant us the freedom to deny our fellow Americans their constitutional rights,” he said. “Even as we are respectful and accommodating genuine concerns and interests of religious institutions, we need to reject politicians who are supporting new forms of discrimination as a way to scare up votes. That’s not how we move America forward.
President Obama wasted no time in denouncing ridiculous Republican talking points about so-called Religious Freedom, which is really just religious tyranny in disguise, the use of the Bible as a weapon to bully women, gays, and minorities – religious and ethnic.
The night’s speech was more than a simple list of Obama accomplishments, though it was that too. Americans will remember, as will historians one day, that it was President Obama who fought to move us forward as a people and as a nation, and Republicans who sought to anchor us in a dark and ugly past.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.