A Step Forward for Gay Rights

As the issue of marriage equality comes to the forefront of social consciousness at both the state and national level, politicians are faced with voicing their support either for or against this issue. While President Obama’s stance has been “evolving” over the years (as he so put it himself), he recently came out and declared his support for same-sex marriage equality.

However, this sentiment also came with the president’s reaffirmation of his belief that the issue is ultimately to be decided at the state level.

Here at the New University, we voice our support for the equality of marriage for all couples, same-sex or otherwise. It would have been nice for President Obama’s support to transcend state borders and move toward a federal level where all marriages would be guaranteed recognition across borders.

The Civil Rights Movement directly enacted change on the federal level — why shouldn’t this? Granted, different issues are being advocated for, but is it not a general consensus that basic civil liberties are at stake here?

Don’t get us wrong; it’s a fantastic moment for this country to have its president declare his support for marriage equality, but it also calls into question the timing of his declaration. Being election season and with Mitt Romney surging to the front of the Republican race, garnering votes from various minority groups remains a concern for campaign strategies on both sides of the aisle.

To the average voter, this move would appear to be a purely political move in order to gain the LGBT vote. However, this begs the question: Does it really matter? Ultimately, the POTUS’ support of the matter is more important than its timing, regardless of how opportunistic it may seem in light of the current political atmosphere.

Regardless of the timing, this announcement is very significant, especially after considering the history of Obama’s stance on this issue. Although Obama has been a long-time proponent of civil unions, he has refrained from outwardly supporting same-sex marriage due to sensitivity from various religions and cultures. However, after prodding from his friends who are gay and conversations with his wife and daughters, Obama’s views really did “evolve” and he finally came to the conclusion that civil unions are no longer sufficient.

We are proud of Obama for voicing his support of same-sex marriage and taking a definitive stand on this contentious political issue, but it’s time for our president to take his advocacy a little further. The fact that Obama still believes that same-sex marriage should be determined by each state almost seems to be more of a setback rather than a step toward progression.

It is even more important for Obama to express his support for gay marriage at the federal level because several states across the country are currently pushing for anti-same-sex marriage legislation. Voters in North Carolina passed a referendum that strengthened the state’s same-sex marriage ban on Tuesday, May 8, just one day before Obama made his national announcement of support. With North Carolina and other states already expressing a strong dissent against same-sex marriage, what good will Obama’s stance do if many states are against it anyway? If Obama has already expressed his support of same-sex marriage, why not take it one step further and make it so that it is not up to individual states to make the decision?

Obama has come a long way from his days of solely supporting civil unions, but as the issue with state decisions suggests, there are still a few more obstacles to overcome before same-sex marriage is an option for all couples, regardless of where they live.

As it stands, Obama’s new stance toward same-sex marriage equality is a symbolic one. Americans know the difference between rhetoric and actual action, and we at the New U would like to see that change enacted via legislation that will affirm equal rights of same-sex couples to marry in our country. It’s been done for the military with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” so why should it stop there?

All political issues aside, when it boils down to it, President Obama taking a definitive stance is a giant leap forward for the LGBT community and its allies, if only a primarily symbolic gesture for now. All change needs to start somewhere, and we’re happy to see the movement for marriage equality taking root in the Oval Office.