As a gay Irishman, Obama’s support on same sex marriage means everything
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|Obama offers support to gay marriage (Credit: Politico)|
President Barack Obama's announcement yesterday that same sex couples should be able to get married is a historic moment in a presidency that hasn't been short of them.
With that statement the president has made it clear that it's wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships from getting married.
Let's be quite clear, this was not another cheap political calculation. No matter how his critics on the right try to frame it, this was not inconsequential pandering, this took the kind of political courage we haven't seen from the Oval Office in decades.
This is the President of the United States of America standing up for the civil rights of a minority that marks a turning point in our history. Its importance is both substantive and symbolic, nationally and globally, and its impact will be profound. World leaders will take note and the wisest will eventually follow his example.
There are multiple ironies, as I'm quite sure he's aware, in the fact that Barack Obama has become an Abraham Lincoln on gay rights. Like Lincoln the president has gambled that doing the right thing will be better for the nation that doing the politically safe thing. Those who support him and those who have wavered lately cannot doubt his commitment to progressive change now. That awareness will further energize his campaign.
Let me just put this in a personal context for a moment. All of my life I have watched gay people be passed over for promotion, be written out of wills, be un-invited to weddings, funerals and family gatherings. I have seen them insulted, spat at, physically attacked and treated like garbage. I have seen parents, brothers and sisters bait them, belittle them, physically injure them, or turn their backs on them, then throw them out of doors forever in Ireland, Europe and the United States
And I have seen the brutal toll of all that shaming and rejection lead some of them to ruin. Some of the kindest, most beautiful souls I have known are dead now because of that daily avalanche of hatred and ignorance. And all because they loved the wrong person. Nothing is more shocking to me than that.
It would have been easier and safer for the president to have dodged this issue all the way to November. I'm amazed and enormously moved that he decided not to. We already know that 50 percent of Americans now support extending full marriage rights to gay couples. Opposition to same sex marriage has dropped by nearly 15 percentage points since 2002. Again, Obama did the right thing here, not the safe thing.
It's also important to remember that changes that seemed unthinkable in 2008 are realities in 2012 thanks to Obama's transformative presidency: we have a National Health Care Act, DADT has been repealed, our troops are finally returned from Iraq, the Obama administration has presided over the biggest financial reforms since the Great Depression, and now this.
Remember that this is president for who promised Hope and Change to a nation exhausted after eight years of the George W. Bush presidency that saw 9/11 and the Iraq War and fake WMD and Halliburton and fake Terror Alerts and Habeas Corpus suspended and Enhanced Interrogation and Abu Ghraib and Tax Cuts for the rich and and Hurricane Katrina for the poor and then the near collapse of American capitalism. It was, or it felt like, a reign of (color coded) terror.
Some may have forgotten lost years, but I never will. And now along comes Mitt Romney looking like an older washed out Don Draper come to take us back to the future in his GOP powered DeLorean.
Romney seems like a nice man, but he never had - and he never will have - President Obama's courage or commitment to his principals. He stands there framed by a white picket fence that welcomes only the select few, not the many. Obama's brave act yesterday has underscored the truth about Mitt Romney: he's yesterday's model, he yesterday's man.
We're in a brave new world now. And the message from the president is the message from history: we have nothing to fear from love.
Here's President Obama's pronouncement: