Obama proclaims approval of same-sex marriageFeature Story Thursday, May 17th, 2012
President Barack Obama (again) rocked history and the American body politic Wednesday of last week, when he announced his newfound “personal” support for same-sex marriage.
Although it was a stunning announcement, for some the timing of his disclosure was not a complete surprise. It had only been a few days since Vice President Joe Biden had seemed to “out” the White House as already having turned the corner regarding its official position on same-sex marriage.
Hours before the announcement, the private listserves, chat rooms and news feeds of various groups of insiders sparked an early- morning, coast-to-coast buzz. It was a buzz that put some newsrooms, including San Diego LGBT Weekly’s in the Bankers Hill neighborhood of San Diego, on standby to report the story first – and some publishers, editors and reporters on pins and needles.
Still, in some corners, there was a lot of skepticism about whether or not the rumors would turn out to be true. Only a day before Obama’s big announcement, it appeared the vice president might have been feeling pressured to walk back his foreshadowing of a change in position about the marriage issue. But by midday May 9, it was official: Barack Obama had fully evolved to become the first U.S. president to claim marriage equality as a worthy American ideal.
In an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, the president proclaimed his “personal” support for marriage equality with the caveat that states should be allowed decide their own laws governing nuptials.
Within minutes, media editors’ email boxes; then the blogosphere; then online news outlets; then cable news channels; and finally the broadcast airways were filled with responses from the nation’s pundit class. Locally, perhaps the most authoritative voice, LGBT Weekly’s own publisher and President Obama’s 2008 campaign co-chair for LGBT issues, Stampp Corbin, was weighing in on the announcement.
“Today is an historic moment in the history of the United States; President Obama announced his support of same-sex marriage,” Corbin said in a statement requested by a White House official. “In 2007, when I decided to support candidate Barack Obama, I was attracted by his honesty and truth of character. During the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama announced his support for civil unions. Later, the president said his position was evolving. President Obama has been honest and truthful about his position from the beginning.”
For Corbin, whose official title during the ’08 campaign was “co-chair of the Obama for America LGBT Leadership Council,” the announcement was an affirmation of his own belief that then Sen. Obama was the best hope for an American president who might come to realize that the right to marry whom one chooses is a basic freedom that all Americans should enjoy.
“President Obama’s journey is that of most Americans as they conclude that equality, fairness and freedom are at the very core of American value,” Corbin’s statement continued. “I celebrate the president’s journey and commend him for his courage.”
Within minutes, leaders of the two most prominent LGBT-rights and marriage-equality advocacy groups – Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign; and Evan Wolfson, president and founder of Freedom to Marry – issued their own statements.
“President Obama made history by boldly stating that gay and lesbian Americans should be fully and equally part of the fabric of American society and that our families deserve nothing less than the equal respect and recognition that comes through marriage,” Solmonese said.
Focusing on the American Dream, Solmonese’ counterpart at Freedom to Marry sounded a similar chord:
“President Obama has come to know loving and committed gay couples.” Wolfson said. “Through thought and conversation about these families and their dreams and challenges, President Obama has reflected on his own values of fairness and respect for others, and completed his journey to support the freedom to marry.”
In stark contrast, the nation’s largest Republican LGBT political-advocacy group criticized the president in a statement released by R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans,
“That the president has chosen today, when LGBT Americans are mourning the passage of Amendment One, to finally speak up for marriage equality is offensive and callous,” he said. “Log Cabin Republicans appreciate that President Obama has finally come in line with leaders like Vice President Dick Cheney on this issue, but LGBT Americans are right to be angry that this calculated announcement comes too late to be of any use to the people of North Carolina or any other states that have addressed this issue on his watch.” Cooper did not respond to a request for comment.
Cooper’s comments came as both the National Organization for Marriage and other anti-LGBT organizations released statements criticizing the president’s announcement as well. “God is the author of marriage, and we will not let an activist politician like Barack Obama who is beholden to gay marriage activists for campaign financing to turn marriage into something political that can be redefined according to presidential whim.” said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.
Mitt Romney immediately contrasted the president’s new position with his own, saying, “My view is that marriage itself is between a man and a woman.” Romney made the statement while campaigning in Oklahoma.
When asked about the position of the Log Cabin Republicans Ryan Trabuco, acting president of the Log Cabin Republicans of San Diego County told LGBT Weekly, “I strongly doubt that Clarke’s criticisms of President Obama, in content and context is identical to the responses from both the National Organization for Marriage or the Family Research Council.”
Trabuco continued,“I can’t speak for Clarke. However, I can say we both politely applaud President Obama’s turnaround on this issue. Our disagreement and the disconnect with the president, I feel, is merely the timing of his ‘conclusion.’ Where was the president’s conclusion during our community’s fight against Prop. 8? Or, where was he during all those times when states across our country were voting on whether or not to deny someone the right to marry? Clarke and I would agree – this is a fairly legitimate question for the president.”
Outgoing Mayor Jerry Sanders applauded the decision, “I think there finally comes a time when you say I’ve got to do what’s right; and I think that’s exactly what the president’s done. It’s what I did,” Sanders told KPBS. All four of the candidates to succeed the outgoing mayor support marriage equality.
Mayoral candidate and Congressman Bob Filner voted for the Defense of Marriage Act which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages, but soon after changed his position and supported the repeal of that law.
California state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher had previously told the Voice of San Diego in 2010 that he “believes marriage is between a man and a woman.” Two years later, in an interview with LGBT Weekly, when asked if he supported marriage equality he replied “absolutely.”
The two openly LGBT candidates in the race City Councilman Carl DeMaio and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis both support marriage equality. However Councilman DeMaio told a crowd at an LGBT mayoral forum at The LGBT Center that “I don’t believe it is the role of the mayor to pursue a social issue agenda.”
The president’s support for equal rights to marry for same-sex couples is a significant change from the position he took while campaigning in 2008. Then Sen. Obama told Rick Warren, senior pastor and founder of the Saddleback Church, “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now for me as a Christian it is also a sacred union. You know, God is in the mix.” Yet, even then, the president told Warren he would oppose a constitutional amendment codifying that position.
Five more states will have marriage initiatives on the ballot this year including: Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Washington.
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