At long last, President Obama has finally come clean to the American public about his support for gay marriage. Is this something of notable and historical significance? Of course it is. Even if Obama was motivated by politics and feeling pressured after Vice President Biden’s recent public support for gay marriage, it is still significant. Even if Obama was lying about his true feelings about gay marriage until this point—yes, even then it retains some significance. After all, this is the first time in American history a sitting president has voiced any kind of support for two men or two women having the right to marry in America.
That being said, let’s not forget talk is cheap. I hate to rain on anyone’s parade or burst the enthusiasm bubble, but talk is especially cheap during an election season. Gay marriage is not an issue Obama ever felt was politically expedient to address honestly until Wednesday. His official stance was that his opinion was continuing to “evolve,” even though he had a history of supporting gay marriage prior to his run for president.
And in his interview with ABC, he made it clear that he still considers gay marriage a states' rights issue. So for supporters who would like to see it passed in all 50 states, unfortunately, this is probably the furthest Obama is going to go in his public support for gay marriage. More than likely, he is not going to do anything from here. If he really were committed to gay marriage, from here on out he should explore ways to make it legal in every state in America.
For those of us who support gay marriage in America and believe it to be a civil rights issue rather than a political issue, not as much progress has just been made as it may seem. A culture war is still raging in America. Only a little more than half of the American public supports gay marriage, and Obama has probably given the gay community what they want in publicly endorsing it, even if he is not likely to support or promote any legislation that would make it legal in all 50 states.
When you get right down to it, Obama is still playing it safe. He has merely confirmed something many people already assumed he believed but for whatever political reason did not feel he could publicly admit. It’s not really a great leap for the gay rights movement in this country, but merely a half step—one that may assuage his detractors in his liberal base but will not achieve much else.
Let’s not kid ourselves about the work left to be done. Gay marriage is still an unpopular issue in many places in America, and 30 states have amendments in their constitution banning it. Instead of putting his power and support behind legislation that would make gay marriage legal, Obama merely voiced his opinion in an interview. It’s not really leadership so much as finally copping publicly to something he believed privately. Is that enough for the gay community and supporters of gay marriage in America? Only time will tell. I, for one, am dissatisfied with half steps. I hoped for a leap from our president.