Photo credit: Pete Souza/White House, via Reuters
“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… I had hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient. 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… The thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the golden rule — you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids, and that’s what motivates me as president.”
I’m glad he finally took a stand on this issue.
Regardless of how you feel about what he said, one thing was clear – on Wednesday, May 9, 2012, President Obama became the first sitting president to say that he believes that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. It was long-winded and had a lot of explanations with it, but he said it. And he didn’t back down about it.
His team later sent out an even more succinct response to all the people who are on the President’s email distribution list.
“Today, I was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer: I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry… What I’ve come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens… So I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.”
Legally, does it mean anything? Nope. Did Vice-President Biden most likely speed up the statement? Yeah. But the fact remains that he said it. And I completely agree.
Look, I understand that this is a controversial issue and something that both sides feel very strongly about. But since the topic has come up in discussions amongst my friends and family over the past few years, I’ve always asserted the same belief – that finding love with someone to the point that you both want to spend the rest of your lives together is in itself a miracle. Not everyone is blessed to have that happen to them. Not everyone can say they found their soul mate. So who am I, or anyone else for that matter, to tell you that you can’t honor your miracle?
I know not everyone shares that belief. I have friends and family members who I love and trust that definitely don’t share that belief, but it seems that there is an increasing rate of people who do share my beliefs, whether they are in the Black community, the youth community, or the general population.
A recent study by the Pew Research Center discusses this change in American opinion:
Since 2004, there has been a broad-based decline in opposition – including strong opposition –to gay marriage. In 2004, Americans younger than 30 were divided (48% opposed, 45% favored). Today, young people favor gay marriage by more than two-to-one (65% to 30%). Opposition has declined by the same percentage – 18 points – among those 65 and older… [and] Since 2008, the proportion of African Americans favoring gay marriage has increased from 26% to 39%, while opposition has fallen from 63% to 49%.
All that to say, as much as we want to make this a controversial and political issue, maybe it’s becoming more of a personal one. And maybe because it’s becoming more of a personal one, that’s why his statement wasn’t as bold as you might think. Don’t get me wrong – he took a risk, but if those reports by Pew are right, more people in this country believe the same thing than don’t. And that runs contrary to the typical political discussions held about certain demographics of the country.
You know those discussions because they came flaring up again. As soon as reports came out about the President’s interview with Robin Roberts, talking heads began to discuss what this would mean for him in an election year. Would the Black community stand by him, they asked. Would he lose support in those all important swing states, they wondered. How would independents feel about the President taking such a liberal and “far-left leaning” stand? They went on and on and yet, supporting his belief or not – I don’t know anyone who was planning to vote for Pres. Obama who has changed their mind. You know what has happened?
In a day’s time, he raised $90 million. My Facebook account was littered with intelligent and intellectual debates. And hopefully, parents and children across the country have engaged in discussions about equality and rights for all. Those things are personal. And really, so is this issue. It’s personal when you talk about someone’s love for another person. And it’s personal when you try to say they can’t express that love like anyone else in this country.