Obama’s Move Transcends Politics

Connor Teige, 12, shows his sign during the president’s visit to Seattle after announcing his support for same-sex marriage. AP photo

Last week was interesting. On Tuesday, North Carolinians voted to not only ban same sex marriage, but also civil unions and domestic partnerships.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama made history once again – he became the first president of the United States to say that he believes gay people should be allowed to get married. Obama believes gay and lesbian people should be treated the same as all other Americans. He has evolved.

“I’ve stood on the side of broader equality,” he said. “I hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient. But 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.”

Right on, Mr. President. Right on. And yikes.

Because to say this is a courageous stand in an election year is, I think, an understatement. The president faces a tough battle for re-election, and this is already galvanizing people against him.

Hawaii has always been strong for Obama. Will this change that? I doubt it. I hope not. It took more than a decade to get civil unions passed in Hawaii, and it was a mighty and difficult struggle. But here, as in other states, there is a generational divide. Young people everywhere are more likely to be in favor of marriage equality, and that speaks volumes for where this issue is headed.

Right now, though, there is a nasty fight ahead and, of course, it won’t all revolve around the issue of gay marriage. The economy is still the most critical issue facing our country today. And no matter what the outcome, I believe what Obama did transcends politics.

Think about it.

Couples in love can see a future unfold where their love is as accepted and legitimate as everyone else’s, no matter the gender of their chosen partner. Maybe someday they’ll be able to do everything hetero couples can do without incurring wrath or disgust or even a second look – things as simple as holding hands or kissing their loved one in public.

LGBT soldiers are hearing their Commander in Chief tell them he sees them as equals in every way. If they are willing to die for their country, the country should at least ensure their partners receive the same support and benefits due all other family members of our armed forces.

And most important is this: All around our great country, young gays and lesbians – many of them scared, confused and in hiding – are hearing for the first time from their president that they are not second-class citizens. He’s telling them it’s OK to be who you are. In fact, it’s more than OK – it’s healthy, it’s normal and it’s right.

Thank you, Mr. President, for taking a stand. It’s about time.