My first reaction to President Obama saying he now supports gay marriage was: Whew, finally. He’s the first U.S. president to take that stand. It’s historic and it’s about time. Americans have grown up debating and pondering this issue. A recent Gallup poll shows more Americans support gay marriage than oppose it. Even many Republicans like former Vice President Dick Cheney think same-sex marriage should be legal. His stance is the result of his own personal connection to the issue – his daughter is gay – but I’ll take it.
This was the next natural step in the long journey towards ending discrimination based on sexual orientation. We’ve gotten rid of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy without any negative repercussions. And, the states that do currently allow gay marriage have seen only more business for wedding caterers.
Still, I have to ask: Could the President have done even more? His new stance is amazing in the symbolism department. But what does it accomplish in the real world?
In endorsing gay marriage, President Obama added a crucial caveat, namely that he thinks this is an issue for individual states to decide. Just this week, North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage. In all, 30 states have enacted same-sex marriage bans. So far, only six states and Washington D.C. have legalized same-sex marriage. So, if you leave it up to the states, then isn’t that tantamount to saying you’re content with gay marriage not being legal in most places in America?
This brings us back to Prop 8, the gay marriage ban passed by California voters that has been the subject of ferocious legal battles and is likely to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. Many feel that is where the issue will ultimately be decided.
I certainly hope that the justices on the Supreme Court – whatever their politics – remember that the fundamental appeal of our entire culture is freedom. The most important freedom is the ability to love whoever you choose, as long as that love is between consenting adults. Don’t tread on me. Wasn’t that the rallying cry of those who fought for our independence?
One headline – on an opinion page owned by the Fox network – claimed that with this declaration, President Obama “declares war on marriage.” (Editor’s Note: This headline was later changed to “Obama Flip Flops on Gay Marriage”).
Come on! The president is just saying that marriage is a fundamental right. As a gay American, I will only have full equality when I get to walk down the aisle with the person I choose – and that person’s gender is nobody else’s business.
Jane Velez-Mitchell is the host of Jane Velez-Mitchell, which airs every weeknight at 7 p.m. on HLN.