The day after Judge Walker struck down Proposition 8 in California, President Obama asked his aide David Axelrod to go on television and make a statement. He wanted to make sure everyone in the country is fully aware of the fact that the President of the United States "opposes same sex marriage." His stance on the issue is interesting: he opposes allowing gays to get married and call it a marriage, favoring instead the government’s discriminatory banning of marriage to gays and lesbians, but with the caveat that another institution, civil unions, should be used instead. However, he supports Judge Walker’s decision.
Walker’s decision in overturning Prop. 8 argued forcefully against President Obama’s stance. Walker noted that denial of the word marriage is harmful to the gay community. This is important, because, even before dealing with the issue of the discrepancy between the rights that marriage affords and the rights that civil unions/domestic partnerships afford, Walker clearly noted that the word marriage itself has certain social connotations which make it an essential and fundamental right for all Americans who wish to participate in our society. Denying marriage to a group means denying entry into society; it means denial of full acceptance of the contributions and importance of gay Americans’ participation in the country. That’s not constitutional.
Walker then noted that creating a separate (but sort-of-in-some-ways-equal) institution for gays who wish to marry, in order to placate bigots who don’t wish to see gays married at all, is a stigmatizing concept which devalues us. And that the propagation of that "newly created right" as a valid alternative is not only inaccurate, since it doesn’t allow all of the same rights as marriage, but it’s legally untenable.
How President Obama can say he supports Judge Walker’s decision, I do not understand. It is a complete, beautiful, awe-inspiring repudiation of the beliefs of people like President Obama. And President Obama himself has never been particularly forthcoming on the marriage issue. He himself said in his book The Audacity of Hope:
And I was reminded that it is my obligation, not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided, just as I cannot claim infallibility in my support of abortion rights. I must admit that I may have been infected with society’s prejudices and predilections and attributed them to God; that Jesus’ call to love on another might demand a different conclusion; and that in years hence I may be seen as someone who was on the wrong side of history.
Those years are upon us now. The time is now. From a truly excellent masterpiece written at DailyKos:
We don’t elect a President just to run the Executive branch and be the Commander-in-Chief. We’d like to see him or her stand up for what is right. To speak out against hatred and bigotry, and for equality and justice.
The world has changed Mr. President. Civil unions are so 2008. They no longer, if they ever did, represent equality and they never will again. It’s the dawn of a new decade, where nothing short of full equality will do.
So, Barack Obama, ‘Come Out’.
* Come out in support of equality.
* Come out in support of the 14th amendment, for equal protection under the law.
* Come out in favor of the pursuit of happiness.
* Come out so that those who look to you can no longer say their President believes in "separate but equal".
They no longer represent equality. Truer words were never spoken. Civil unions were created in the eighties as an acceptable alternative for gay couples, in the midst of the AIDS crisis, in the wake of Harvey Milk’s death and in the decades after Stonewall. No longer are we considered a small group of fringe radical activists. Now we’re an enormous group of radical activists and we’re growing by the day.
Our name is Legion, for we are many.
With groups like GetEqual forming by the minute, gay equality is not going to be silenced, placated, or broken up. We are not pockets of resistance that will just dissipate. We are not a small fringe group who will continue to be happy with small gestures. We want equality, and we are going to win. In the hearts and minds of the American people, we’ve already won. 70% of Americans support gays serving in the military. 89% support ENDA. 52% now support marriage. Those numbers are never going to decrease. Who ever heard of support for equality decreasing over time? Not me.
One thing the President and Democrats ought to know is: we are defiant. We are angry. We’re no longer going to sit at home, sulking, bemoaning the fact that we are treated this way. Ignoring our anger and our increase in numbers, especially amongst the younger generations of us, will be a costly electoral mistake. We are people who are more likely to know someone who’s gay and are thus more likely to not only be supportive, but to reject those who are not supportive. I want the Democratic Party to succeed. I want to see President Obama’s second term, despite my issues with him, but he is not going to win unless he understands our urgency, accepts and embraces our anger and our drive.
As Gavin Newsom once said, equality is coming whether you like it or not. You can join us or you can be known as "that President who diminished and ignored the leading civil rights struggle of his time." Does the President really want that?
I am no longer that 12 year old boy. What once was wistful has turned bitter and determined. I am no longer that wistful boy. I am an angry and determined man.
And I am not alone. All of those wistful boys, who looked at the faded yellow pages of a porn magazine that dreamed of a simple astonishing and radical concept, that people could be left to make happiness for themselves in peace and equality, are now angry and determined men. And women.
In 1969, the Stonewall Riots occurred. Bottles and rocks were thrown over the issue of simple harassment. And, though violence is terrible, the harassment stopped.
In 2009, hundreds of thousands of people marched. It got so bad, at one point, the Mormons and Catholics and others were scared briefly into whining about fairness — fairness after they spent millions of dollars to keep our oppression intact.
In 2010, Daniel Choi handcuffed himself to the White House fence.
And all along, the assumption has been made that this latest incident, whatever it is, is just another exposition of rage by people on the margins of society. It would die down, they said. And it did. For a while. And in every future event, it will, too, die down. For a while.
But every incident, every time, the storm will get bigger and harder to control.
Do you want to be the guy who fought back against this tide, Mr. President?