A Moment in History: Marriage Equality

Wed. May 9, 2012 12:00 AM
by Waymon Hudson

"I think same-sex couples should be able to get married." - Barack Obama, President of the United States, May 9th, 2012.

With those words, history has been made.  The sitting President of the United States has endorsed full marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.  While there will be time to dissect and digest what this means in terms of policy and the way forward for federal recognition of marriage rights for same-sex couples, what shouldn't be lost is the incredible moment this is for the equality movement and for our country.
It isn't overstating things to say that having the President fully evolve on marriage equality is ground-breaking.  Less than four years ago, we had a President in George W. Bush who wanted to add a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage-- a position that the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney shares even today.  In fact, on the day Obama came out in favor of full marriage equality, Romney reiterated his stance against it, as well as against even less-than-equal civil unions.  And this all comes but a day after North Carolina passed a ban on not just same-sex marriage, but also civil unions and domestic partnerships.

But beyond partisan politics and talk of Republicans versus Democrats, this day has a reverberating impact on LGBT young people as well.  Hearing those words from our President sends a clear signal to LGBT or questioning youth around the country who face discrimination and bigotry everyday, many times from within their own families, that there is change coming.   It gives a glimmer of hope that maybe one day, with more work and leadership like we've seen in this moment, it does indeed "get better."
This historic moment also shows the power of activism and political pressure.  A confrontational and energized LGBT movement has been effective at shaping opinions and educating even the President of the United States.  Working both within the political system and challenging it with street-level activism has created the space for equality to gain momentum and make it all the way to the White House.  It is not just a historic day, but also a teachable moment for the LGBT movement.
This is also a huge teachable moment for those still unsure about marriage equality.  As infuriating as it was at times for those of us that support full marriage equality, Obama's slow "evolving" views on marriage for same-sex couples mirrors that of many Americans.   In his interview, Obama spoke of talking to his gay friends and neighbors about marriage and learning from them, a process many people go through in their own lives.  This personal journey around issues of faith, upbringing, internal bias, and simply being uninformed is something many will hopefully relate to.  It's a subtle, but important, leadership stance beyond just the political and into the personal.
While there are sure to be political detractors and nay-sayers, one thing is clear-- today is a day to remember.  We have turned a corner as a country and bent that arc of history towards justice just a little bit more.

Thank you, Mr. President.