Today, less than 24 hours after North Carolina's hateful passage of the discriminatory Amendment One which bans gay marriage and curbs civil unions, President Obama announced his support of same-sex marriage in an interview with ABC.
Earlier in the day, the rumors began to circulate that this was coming. But nothing was confirmed until the 3pm publication of the attention-grabbing, much-sought-after headline: "Obama: 'Same-Sex Marriage Should be Legal' followed by "President says his position on marriage has evolved."
The president's actual words in the interview "…it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married." He also credits his family for helping him move forward on the position.
The President's "evolution" on the issue is not entirely linear. Back when he was a younger, more radical politician, he endorsed gay marriage on a questionnaire, then reversed course for what appeared to be political expediency. Even now, Richard Kim at the Nation reminds us,
Obama, however, stopped short of lending full support to the multi-state legal and political campaign for marriage equality. According to ABC News, the President stressed that his is a “personal position,” and he continues to think that states should decide the issue independently."
And of course, it's important to remember that actual policy matters far more than words in the civil rights arena for LGBTQ Americans.
Sadly, in that area we have so much room for improvement it's not funny. State-level budget austerity leads to cuts in shelter programs for LGBTQ kids who are kicked out of their homes. Bullying and teen suicide remain a plague. Outright homophobia persists in ultra-religious circles. The scourge of killings and beatings of transgender individuals is abetted by the lack of encoded protections (in ENDA and elsewhere) for them. Gay couples whose love crosses international borders don't have the benefit of being able to marry for citizenship. All of these issues and more affect the day to day lives of LGBTQ citizens--as do issues of poverty, reproductive rights, and civil liberties--and need to be addressed.
Still, culture matters, and activists need wind in their sails to get things done. So Obama's position as an influencer of culture, a rock star and celebrity in many circles, and an eloquent spokesman for the causes he chooses to champion shouldn't be entirely underestimated either. Young questioning and LGBT people watching TV or reading the web will know that the president supports them. So will their parents. That's important.
Here's to a whole lot more "evolution" for the President, his advisors, the GOP, and the rest of the country on this issue.