On May 8, 2012, Barack Obama became the first sitting US president to affirm his support of marriage equality. After that time, the Department of Justice announced it would no longer defend the DOMA before the Supreme Court, and, in 2013, the Supreme Court overturned the central parts of DOMA, removing the federal government from defining marriages, and now 32 states have marriage equality. It is not certain that Obama caused this series of events, but it is undeniable that he facilitated them—he and his Attorney General Eric Holder.
At a time when the appeals courts are still working on the effects of the Supreme Court’s having declined, on October 6, 2014, to hear appeals from the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuit Courts, it begins to seem as if the marriage fight has been won and that the next fight is less over the question, “Shall same-sex couples be allowed to marry?” than over the larger question, “Is there any right of citizenship that can be constitutionally denied to gay people?”
We are six days from the mid-term elections of President Obama’s second term, and it is appropriate to look at how we got here. Getting here was the work of thousands upon thousands of gay people, working alone and with others, by the various civil rights organizations, the Mattachine Society, the Daughters of Bilitis, the Committee for Homosexual Freedom, The Gay Liberation Front, Gay Activist Alliance, the Human Rights Campaign, the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, and Lavender Menace, to name just the early ones. The movement to obtain legal marriage started out being a bizarre attempt by people who didn’t seem to need (or want) marriage, but in the twenty years since 1993, when the Hawaii Supreme Court almost gave us legal marriage, legal marriage went from the fringe to the very center of our movement for liberty. It turns out that legal marriage brings with it a legal status indistinguishable from freedom.
The single person most prominent in recent years in the movement for legal marriage has been the President of the United States, Barack Obama. And now, any listing of the achievements of his administration would have to include, prominently, his leadership in bringing marriage to all citizens without regard to gender. It’s not just that the courts have come around to a new reading of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, including more people in their expansive reading of the Constitution, it is also that the president has been a leader in bringing the whole of the United States with him in his acceptance of it. In his second inaugural address, he said, “We the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Senaca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall….” And Stonewall. And at great moments since then, he has made it a point to bring into the legendary history of this republic, men and women who love their own gender. In Soweto, at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, he said, “Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who they love.” So he included us when there was no political benefit to doing so, teaching the citizens of the world where our place is. I am profoundly grateful to Obama. Eventually, we might have ended up here, without him, but it has happened more quickly with him. He was the true leader, bringing his people—the people of the United States—along with him.
President Obama’s financial policies are successful. He has created healthcare reform. He is working on serious environment action, and he opened up American society and government to minorities, and women. He is transforming the federal judiciary.
In the election next Tuesday, he and his party deserve our support. Vote. Vote for Democrats.