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Column/Op-Ed, News, Politics, Social

Obama Is First Sitting US President to Endorse Gay Marriage, And I Couldn’t Be Happier

It could not come at a more appropriate time.

In an upcoming ABC News interview with Robin Roberts, President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, signaling not only a shift in public opinion, but a social divide that will be resolved at the polls. The interview came as North Carolinians voted yesterday to amend their constitution to recognize the union between one man and one woman as a legal marriage, effectively banning gay marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships, and common-law marriages.

Obama’s announcement not only marks an act of political bravery – devout Christians and Republicans could use this as political ammunition against the President in November – but a symbolic hallmark in the gay rights movement. Never has a sitting United States President endorsed marriage equality.

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 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 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.

The comments came after endorsements by Vice-President Job Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan on same-sex marriage and Obama voicing his disappointment on yesterday’s vote in North Carolina. Obama continued by discussing how he has disagreements with the younger generations of Republicans on economic and foreign policy, but they are united on marriage equality.

Obama’s journey to this comment has been tumultuous. He entered politics voicing a pro-gay marriage stance, but shifted to a stance on one man/one woman during the 2008 presidential election. The President however, has made great strides for the gay community, including the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2011. Politically, the President cannnot make any legislative decisions, but his administration’s Department of Justice has stopped defending the constitutionality of the federal ban on same-sex marriage, Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). His symbolic stance, however, could further influence public opinion. In the United States, support for marriage equality is rising higher and higher and is widespread.  But some swing states, especially in the South are still opposed to such a move, which could be a possible boon for Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

I want to make a personal note at this point. I came out as a gay man in 2010, when I was 20 years old, after years of being afraid of who I am. While I am lucky to live in a progressive city like New York, where marriage equality passed in 2011, I know that many other young LGBT Americans are not as lucky, trapped in homes or towns, even states that won’t accept them for who there are. There are people like Bryan Fischer, who made headlines accusing Mitt Romney of catering to the gay community by picking an openly gay spokesman, Richard Grenell, who later resigned. Fischer seems like a voicebox for the older generations who still don’t understand how homosexuality works, which I covered briefly in an article here. Fischer believes without a shadow of a doubt that homosexuality is a learned behavior, a choice that we make.

Frankly, who would choose to be gay when you have people who despise you? Who would choose to be gay when families kick out their LGBT kids and make them homeless. Who would choose to be gay when your government has diminished rights? When did straight people “come out” as straight? In the end, gays are no more different than straight people in that they are both looking for the right one.

I was upset that Obama did not staunchy stick to his guns on same-sex marriage from the very start.  His shift towards an anti-marriage equality stance was merely a political one to appease a country that wasn’t ready. And there was a sense of irony that  But it’s 2012. And as the youth of America reach voting age, armed with a competent understand of homosexuality being something you are born as – and not what you learn – it is time for the government to reflect that. But as Clinton made her historic speech earlier this year to all the LGBT of the world and asking governments to pass pro-LGBT legislation, the United States would still be hypocritical as long as we have laws limiting the rights of a minority.

And that’s the real travesty of North Carolina’s Amendment One. It wasn’t because it was the 30th state to pass such a law banning same-sex marriage, or that it was the last southern state to do so.  It was that a referendum was giving to the majority, to people uneducated about homosexuality and driven by the teachings of their faiths, to deny the American rights of a minority.

What we seem to forget is that the “marriage equality” we speak of is not a religion one, but a governmental right. Denying marriage equality means a couple cannot adopt children and start a family. Couples cannot file taxes together or receive benefits from one another. An injured or dying patient cannot have their partner speak on their behalf. Over 100 state and federal laws that straight Americans take for granted, gays are fighting for.  Why are we denying basic human rights to hard-working taxpaying Americans, some of which fight for our country? Because of tradition? Religion? My bile rose when I saw the AMERICAN audience boo and heckle an AMERICAN soldier during the Republican debates earlier this year simply because he was gay. Fischer and Mitt Romney – who formerly considered himself more liberal than Ted Kennedy on gay rights and now self-proclaims himself a combatant in a culture war and has vowed to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage – are among many who believe that this is the last stand, a battle for the future of American society and family. So if these anti-gay warriors want a war, then by goodness, we in the gay and allied communities will give them a war. And they will lose.

To me, this Amendment One and other proposals to either ban gay marriage or ban the use of the word “homosexual” and its variants in schools (as if “Don’t Say Gay” will prevent homosexuality in children) or reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the name of family values is exactly like the bullying of LGBT youth.  It’s a dying breed. And as other states, organizations, and even politicians fight against LGBT Americans and their right to exist, they are doing nothing but trying to fist-fight a tidal wave of change and acceptance. They have to stop imposing their hateful beliefs on others.

After all, if gay marriage is the downfall of the traditional Christian nuclear family in the United States, don’t you think we would have banished divorce and cracked down on the true mockeries of marriage – quicky Vegas-esque or for-profit marriages like Britney Spears and Kim Kardashian were in respectively – by now?

I wrote a comprehensive thesis on same-sex marriage in 2010, which I will adapt into a series of articles for this site. Look for it soon.

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About Richard L. Vargas

Among many things, I'm a writer, blogger, news junkie, and pop culture enthusiast from New York City.

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