On the other side of the fence, those of us who genuinely care about freedom and fairness are more outraged than ever. Outrage is motivating, and by the way, polls show that at least half of Americans support equality for LGBT citizens. It’s about six months until Election Day – how much mobilizing do you think we’re capable of?
Obama may or may not want the issue to go away, but from where I sit the religious right has today handed him a very large stick. Here’s hoping he has the courage and insight to use it on them. And let’s make sure that we, the people, make him embrace this, the most crucial civil rights issue of our generation.
Today, as if on cue, the president stepped up to the plate, big stick in hand.
“I’ve been going through an evolution on this issue. I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts. “At a certain point, I just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think that same sex couples should be able to get married.”
It seems evident to anyone who has been paying attention over the past three and a half years that Barack Obama is ill at ease in the presence of LGBT issues (among others). If he had any stomach for stepping out in front of this particular civil rights battle, he’d have done so long before now. All along, I’ve heard his supporters arguing that he was playing realpolitik, acknowledging realities, forging incremental victories and in general, doing all that was possible at a given moment under a given set of circumstances. I have not always received such assertions charitably.
Yesterday, a significant voting majority in my home state of North Carolina threw down the gauntlet. Today, our leader picked it up, illustrating what very bright people have been saying for a long time: if the followers lead, the leaders will follow. A majority of Americans support unconditional equal rights for gays and they have found it harder by the day to support, with their wallets and their energy, a man who doesn’t share their passion for basic civil justice.
As I said last night, losing on Amendment One was a temporary setback, the lost battle that sparks us to win the war. Today, thanks to the passion and the righteous outrage of so many millions of Americans, Mr. Obama has finally accepted that to lead, he must follow the will of the people and stand for what is right.
Make no mistake. May 8 was a dark day for civil rights in North Carolina, but May 9 marks one of our biggest victories yet. It’s now up to us to lead the president to more important realizations.
If we do, we’ll win big in November and his second term may well deliver on the hope everyone voted for in 2008.