Remember this date: May 9 2012. That was the day President Barack Obama endorsed marriage equality, put the right-wing on notice and led America into the 21st century. It was nothing less than epic.
The President made the announcement in an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts after his administration had been hounded by questions on same-sex marriage for 48 hours by the White House press corps, following a “Meet the Press” appearance by Vice President Joe Biden on which he said that he was “absolutely comfortable” with gays and lesbians getting married—and enjoying the same rights as any other American.
“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,” said President Obama, after saying for almost two years that his views on marriage were “evolving.”
It goes without saying that Obama has been the strongest president on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues. Ever. Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The Justice Department announcing that it would no longer defend challenges to the odious “Defense of Marriage Act”—which defines marriage for federal purposes as between “one man and one woman”, preventing lawfully married gay couples in six states and Washington D.C. from receiving everything from Social Security survivor’s benefits to health care. Mandating hospital visitation rights for same sex partners. Barack has probably done more for the gays than every administration from George Washington to George W. Bush combined.
But he was never fully there with marriage equality. “I had hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient,” said President Obama. “I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word marriage was something that invokes very powerful traditions and religious beliefs.”
A sitting president endorsing gay marriage—and with some risk, too. This was only hours after Tuesday’s heartbreaking and overwhelming passage of an anti-gay marriage amendment in North Carolina, which narrowly swung for Obama in 2008 and will host the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
“My president is so awesome that, with everything at stake, he’s willing to put justice and human dignity over political expediency,” National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director Sharon Lettman-Hicks told EBONY.com. NBJC is the nation’s leading Black LGBT civil rights organization. “We’re one step closer to standing as one people in these United States of America.”
“Having a president who can take a strong principled position and does not compromise on equal rights and questions of constitutional significance is significant,” Ravi Perry, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Clark University and Director of Ethnic Studies, told EBON. “It’s an historic moment in an historic presidency.”
Perry knows from where he speaks. In March 2011, the 28-year-old academic made history of his own when he was elected president of the Worcester, Massachusetts NAACP—becoming the veteran civil rights group’s first openly gay branch president. In with the old, out with the new—just like what President Obama is doing.
President Obama’s bedrock of support in the Black community won’t abandon him over marriage equality. Some 95 percent of Blacks voted for Obama in 2008 and he’ll get—93 percent? 94 percent in 2012. You could argue that White House extensively polled voters in swing states, deciding that coming out for equal marriage would help his campaign. The campaign probably did but it doesn’t matter—it’s just the right thing to do. It re-energizes the progressive wing of the party. Opens up LGBT checkbooks again—gay Democratic fundraising bundlers are ecstatic!!—and wins the president points for moving America forward on civil rights.
Let’s face it. Most people—outside of the Black community—who are dead set against gay marriage were never voting for Obama anyway. And Mitt “Multiple Choice” Romney was going to hammer Obama on this issue—using it as an example of Obama’s indecisiveness or saying they had the same position. Obama turned a negative into a positive.
And what did Mitt do after Obama made the announcement? Reiterated his opposition to gay marriage, civil unions, and any protections for same sex couples.
Obama moving forward, Romney clinging to the past. Obama fighting for a woman’s right to control her body, Mitt and the GOP supporting forced ultrasounds. Obama pushing health care reform, Romney—umm, where does he stand on Romneycare today? It energizes the base and is a clear contrast between the candidates. Game on.
Rod McCullom is a multimedia journalist who has written and produced for ABC News and NBC, and whose writing has appeared in EBONY, The Advocate, Out.com and many others. Check out his award winning site Rod 2.0. Follow him on Twitter: @RodMcCullom.