The President of the United States — whose very existence emerged from an acceptance of an interracial union once scorned by biblical bigotry — came out to endorse marriage equality for gay and lesbian Americans. He’d been struggling with gay marriage for a while, due in part to the religious and traditional context of marriage. In an interview with ABC News, President Obama stated, “When I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting 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.”
This news also comes in as voters in North Carolina decided to double down on its ban of same-sex marriage.
The timing of this announcement is given much to the credit of Vice President Joe Biden, who’s comments on Meet the Press over the weekend brought the president’s position on gay marriage back into the national spotlight, when he stated that he was “absolutely comfortable” with the idea of gay couples getting married. Education Secretary Arne Duncan followed suit by expressing his support of marriage equality on Monday, creating the media momentum leading to the ABC News interview.
This personal journey for President Obama began as early as 2004, when then State Senator Obama, running for the U.S. Senate, expressed his respect for the deep religious traditions of marriage.
In 2008, as a candidate for President, Barack Obama endorsed the idea of civil unions as a compromise to his personal religious convictions and that of the nation, still refraining from endorsing same sex marriage. Last year, however, the president began to evolve, responding to the historic passage of marriage equality in New York State as an acceptable solution at the state level, coming short of supporting same sex marriage himself.
The evolution of President Obama just so happens to be in line with a growing number of Americans as well. Recent polls have proven this to be true – now with a majority of Americans in favor of same sex marriage.
Today, support for same sex marriage has doubled from where it was during then President Bill Clinton’s 1996 midnight signing of the Defense of Marriage Act, passed by the Republican lead House of Representatives. Since then, Barack Obama has succeeded in becoming the most effective advocate of gay rights in recent history, earning the title of America’s First Gay President.
There is no doubt this historic endorsement by the President of the United States will fuel the flames of right-wing conservatives who are already going to vote against him. But there might be a bigger shift in the 2012 electoral climate. The political implications are complex with potential mixed results. Leaders in the conservative movement are calling the news “a campaign gift.” President Obama stands to lose some support among conservative and moderate voters in swing states like Ohio and Virginia.
However, this also puts Romney on the offensive to move further to the right, alienating independents and energizing the liberal base of the Democratic Party. This huge risk could ultimately yield high rewards.
Modern day right-wing conservatives forget the reason why the Civil War ended the way it did. Ignorance backed by guns or by scripture –has and always will — lose to a compassionate majority. Our president evolved with the American people and the outcome of this election will reveal the ever growing compassionate majority; the same majority that gave women the right to vote and African Americans the title of citizen — all in the face of Biblical bigotry.
One thing is now certain; both the conservative and liberal base are now fired up for what will be a fight for the heart and soul of America. Bring the bible, we’ll bring the people.