President Barack Obama did the right thing by supporting gay marriage. Undoubtedly, his unexpected announcement represents a calculated political move, but that doesn’t diminish the fairness of his position.
Obama’s “evolution”-as he called it himself, going from considering marriage an exclusive agreement between a man and a woman to accepting same-sex unions-means that the President, his team and even his party, have reached the political confidence to defend the principle of equitable marriage rights, without worrying about the reaction of conservative voters.
The President’s calculations may have been based on three assumptions: A bet on mobilizing the gay community, a major wing of the liberal Democratic vote that is highly organized and has money; the knowledge that support for gay marriage has been growing among Americans since 1996 and today has reached a historic popular support of 50%, according to Gallup; and the conviction that those who strongly oppose same-sex marriage would vote for a Republican anyway.
Beyond political motivations and implications, Obama’s comment represents a milestone in the campaign to obtain respect for the civil rights of millions of Americans. His support is especially welcome given the hostility that gay communities face throughout the country, as demonstrated by North Carolina this week with its gay marriage prohibition. And it sends a significant message to communities throughout the country that for cultural or religious reasons still refuse to accept equal rights for homosexuals.
All that is left is for the personal support of the U.S. President for same-sex couples to obtain marriage rights to eventually turn into action to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which allows states to forbid gay marriage.
Without this type of action, Obama’s opinion is little more than moral support for a fair cause. His statements have no impact on the restrictive actions 31 states have taken against homosexuals, or in correcting the federal law.
Even so, we’re not deluding ourselves. Overturning DOMA is basically impossible with a Republican-led House of Representatives. For now, we should celebrate Obama’s “evolution,” which also mirrors the evolution of Americans on a basic issue of individual rights that doesn’t negatively impact heterosexuals at all. Personal religious beliefs are personal.