Irish community divided as Obama backs same-sex marriage
Gay pride for some but others see politics at work, as reaction split along political lines
Last week President Barack Obama endorsed the right of same sex couples in loving relations to get married, and reaction to the news in the Irish community has predictably divided along political lines.
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who will marry her longtime partner Kim Catullo in the city on Saturday, May 19 told the press that the president’s endorsement was “historic” and “a game-changer that made gay, lesbian and transgender people stand a little taller.”
In a television interview with Fox News, Irish American Quinn said that when she and Catullo “walk down that aisle, it’s going to feel like the president is supporting us and that is an amazing feeling.
“To feel that you’re not just supported by your city, you’re not just supported by your state, you’re actually supported by the president of the United States… it’s a feeling of support and affirmation and equality that just wasn't there before the president said this.”
Well-known Irish gay activist Brendan Fay, who first married his partner Tom Molton in Canada when same sex unions became legal there in 2005, told the Irish Voice he was also delighted and moved by Obama’s endorsement.
“Within one hour of the statement going public I started hearing from friends and activists in Ireland, India and Europe,” Fay confessed.
“It’s on the front page of every newspaper across the world. My great hope is that his call for marriage equality translates soon into legislative change in the United States. We need to see an end to the discrimination in law.”
Fay, a native of Drogheda, Co. Louth, says the president’s message of support will reach into the hearts of gay youth, many of whom continue to be bullied and harassed in the nation’s schools and churches.
“In the way a previous generation talk about Kennedy visiting Ireland or Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, to me I will always think of this as a watershed moment as I sat at my desk and watched the news break. This is not just news, this is a historic event with major implications,” Fay added.
Jeff Cleary, the national co-chair of the Irish American Republicans group, was unimpressed with the president’s stance.
“It was hardly a surprise. This idea he was evolving on the issue is a little silly. Anyone with any political acumen could see this coming from a mile away,” Cleary told the Irish Voice.
“He didn’t do this four years ago because he wouldn’t have gotten the nomination. Fast forward now and he’s in the re-election mode, and he had to do it.”
Cleary sees political calculation, not political courage, as the motivating factor in Obama’s announcement.
“I don’t see courage in it. It was natural for him to do it, it was politically expedient. I certainly would never tie the word courage to it,” he said.
“Social conservatives were never going to vote for him. Overall it probably helps him with his base.”
Cleary supports civil unions that grant gay couples the same rights and entitlements of marriage, putting him at odds with the presumptive GOP nominee Romney, who neither supports gay marriage or civil unions.
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