President Obama Gives Marriage Equality a Leg Up: He Voices His Support for SSM
Same-sex couples should be able to get married. – President Obama
I awoke this morning* to the momentous news that President Barack Obama had come out in support of SSM. Let me tell you, after the bruising defeat of Amendment One passing last night in NC and the aftermath, I was ready for some good news. And this? This was great news. Finally, PBO’s words were matching his action, and for the first time in history, a sitting American president had voiced support for SSM**.
Let me repeat – for the first time ever, a sitting president has voiced his support for SSM. It didn’t take long for the naysayers to come crawling out of the woodwork along with some of the LGBTQ community to take credit for the president’s statement, but I refuse to let them tarnish what is, to quote our Vice President from another historic moment, a big fucking deal. I know many of us are impatient for marriage equality to be here already, but let’s try to remember how far we’ve come in a relatively short amount of time. A tweet from my sage co-blogger, Emily (@emilylhauser on the Tweet Machine), cleaned up for clarity and proper spelling/grammar so my head doesn’t explode:
In my lifetime we’ve gone from the President who wouldn’t say “AIDS” to the President who said “same sex couples should be able to get married.”
Lest we forget, back in the eighties, Reagan refused to talk about AIDS for much of his presidency. That would have been bad enough, but his own communication director, the hateful, Pat Buchanan, said that AIDS was “nature’s revenge on gay men.” Oh, and that asshat, Jerry Falwell, a Reagan supporter said, “AIDS is the wrath of God upon homosexuals.” AIDS was viewed as a gay disease; Reagan did jackshit about AIDS during much of his presidency for that very reason.
Lest we also forget, it was (Bill) Clinton who instituted DOMA and DADT. Some Democrats have amnesia when they castigate President Obama for not moving fast enough on LGBTQ issues. Hey, guys? He’s been busy trying to undo the damage the last Democratic president did to queer rights. And, for those who pooh-pooh what PBO has accomplished on queer issues, here’s a handy list for you to peruse. A few biggies off the top of my head – he repealed DADT, spoke out against DOMA – E.T.A. he endorsed Senator Feinstein’s bill to repeal DOMA last July, and gave the same benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees that straight people’s partners received. Seriously, read the damn list – it’s impressive.
This is one of the main thrusts of my post – today’s announcement was historic and emotionally satisfying, but it was incidental to my support of the president’s reelection. Sticking strictly to LGBTQ issues, he’s walked the walk his entire first term, and today’s announcement was just the cherry on top of an already delicious hot fudge sundae. Yesterday, I tweeted that I didn’t give a shit as to PBO’s personal opinion on same-sex marriage – though if he truly believed what he said, I wouldn’t want to have a proverbial beer with him – because his policies have always pushed for equality. As I said then, he spoke out against DOMA and repealed DADT. He expanded domestic violence protections to cover LGBTQ victims. He spoke out AGAINST Amendment One in NC, and he has consistently said that all people should have equal protection under the law.
One thing the sad trombone players on the Democratic side want to latch onto is that PBO also reiterated today that he still believed marriage was a state issue – as it has been all along. Oh noes! That means he’s caved, RIGHT? He should just bang his Executive Order gavel and make marriage a federal issue because FUCK YEAH, America! Here is an excellent article that explains how the president can say that he believes marriage to be a state issue AND him doing what he can to protect it on a federal level are not mutually exclusive. Now, I am not a lawyer, but my lawyer**** has explained this to me and it pretty much boils down to this (and I’m paraphrasing so any mistakes are mine): President Obama backs the repeal of DOMA; the DOJ has deemed DOMA to be unconstitutional; DOJ lawyers have called for more scrutiny of anti-SSM laws, including judiciary scrutiny.
In other words, while President Obama does believe marriage is a state issue, he has also let it be known that the constitutionality of the laws surrounding said marriages can become a federal issue. So, all the whiners on the left, how about giving the man some credit and backing the fuck off? There’s holding PBO’s feet to the fire and then there’s throwing his whole body into the bonfire.
Back to the historic moment and how I felt about it – ‘coz it’s all about me. I watched President Obama speak of his evolution on this subject, I was struck by how real it felt to me. He has always supported civil unions for queer folks, which is actually close my own stance – civil unions for everyone – and he thought it was enough. Until he started talking to the troops and realized that repealing DADT wasn’t enough for the men and women who have given their lives to serve their country, that they should be allowed to love freely. Until he talked to young Republicans on college who took issue with the way he dealt with the economy and nearly everything else, but who were fine with SSM. Until he looked at his daughters, thought about how they had friends with gay parents and realized that gay parents should not be treated differently just because of their sexual orientation.
It was clear that he has given a lot of thought to the issue as is his wont, and it was equally clear that he finally arrived to the conclusion that there was no good reason to not support SSM. Some people wanted to know what had taken him so long to evolve on the subject, but personally, I would rather have someone think really hard about it, muddle through, make a few mistakes, and arrive at a solid conclusion than just give lip service to whatever conventional wisdom tells him he should say. I admire a man who takes his time and makes up his own damn mind. That’s exactly what President Obama has done on his personal journey to supporting SSM – and I applaud him for it.
For all practical purposes, President Obama’s announcement today doesn’t change anything. His policies have always been about equality, and he has done more to advance LGBTQ rights than any other president – full stop. But, I know that words mean something, and I cannot deny that hearing the president of the United States voice his support for SSM sent chills up and down my spine. I was feeling so down after last night, this announcement really bolstered my flagging spirits. A cartoon by Steve Sack from my hometown paper, Star Tribune, gets it exactly right. President Obama made a declaration that could be considered risky in an election season – but shouldn’t, as pointed out by the incomparable George Takei – and he demonstrated real leadership in doing so.
As I said earlier, I was already 100% behind PBO’s reelection before this – today’s announcement just consolidated my support. I stood up for marriage equality alongside PBO and now I’m fired up to help him get reelected!
**Yes, my fellow queers***, I know it’s just marriage, but for the sake of conventionality and to avoid confusion, I’m going with SSM. Deal.