By now I’m sure you’ve heard the news: Barack Obama became the first president in the history of the United States to openly endorse gay marriage. Since the POTUS voiced his support for marriage equality via interview with ABC on May 9, he has received an earful from both supporters and opponents.
It is no surprise that with election season in full swing many are criticizing the president, calling this a purely political move for votes. It would be ignorant of us to believe that no political strategy was put into the releasing of this statement, but we cannot disregard the meaning of his message. This isn’t just an instance of a candidate playing political game for votes; this is the image of a leader who understands that change for the LGBT community is necessary in our nation.
With the increasing amount of press on state level legislations regarding LGBT rights and the vice president recently expressing his “comfort” with gay marriage, it was only a matter of time for the president to speak up about the issue. Just one day after North Carolina passed an amendment banning gay marriage, the president took to the media and explained his change of heart regarding marriage equality. Whether this was politically convenient or not, the fact of the matter is that our president decided to step forward towards equality and take a stand for the rights of his citizens.
This is a message that reaches beyond polls, party lines, state, and sexual preference. The proliferation of the president’s support for the LGBT community is a symbol of progress in this country. Since last summer New York, Washington and Maryland have passed legislation granting marriage equality and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed. There is no ignoring the surge of acceptance and development of equality in our nation, especially not after our commander-in-chief goes on national television claiming he supports gay marriage.
The president’s statement served as a catalyst for more encouragement of the LGBT community. After his interview with ABC, thousands viewed and shared the video of the president vocalizing his position on the issue, while trending topics in favor of gay marriage took the Internet by storm. Following the widespread media coverage of this turn of events, celebrities including Jay Z, Ellen DeGeneres, Ricky Martin and Neil Patrick Harris either publically thanked Obama or voiced their opinion in favor of marriage equality. This isn’t legislation or a federal effort to guarantee LGBT rights, but it is inspiration.
Though there are many avid supporters of gay marriage that prefer the president to take further federal action on the issue, in all actuality, the chances of a federal amendment affirming gay marriage getting through congress are near impossible.
If we want change now, we need to accept Obama’s stance and move onward at the state level with his support. We need to look past the politics and towards the possibility of equality. Now is the time talk like Barack and voice our support in favor of the right side of history.
Sarah Menendez is a first-year political science and literary journalism double major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.