The President's journey towards (public) acceptance of marriage equality is now complete. He has said the words, this afternoon in an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts:
"I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married."
When you think about it, President Obama either may not have had any other choice, or this was planned all along. His Vice President and two of his cabinet members had spoken out in favor of marriage equality on national television within the last few days, bringing the pressure on him to "evolve" from his (public) hemming and hawing on the issue into a full-grown (public) believer in, frankly, what amounts simply to equal civil rights for a marginalized group of Americans.
In any event, the most solid analysis of how Obama's decision will impact the election is likely this: who knows? Democratic sources close to the White House and the Obama campaign tell me that this certainly wasn't a carefully planned endeavor on the president's part...
Biden's unplanned comments placed this challenge on the center stage, and the president and his aides decided now was the time to confront it, realizing the political consequences could be mixed. Obama may have just figured it was time to come out on gay marriage and then he'll take it from there.
This is a historic moment, if only because we have still have Americans like those in North Carolina willing to further that marginalization through our government. And while I believe that words matter, I am infinitely more interested to see what happens now, both in terms of policy from this White House (which already has a strong record on LGBT issues), and in the President's just-launched campaign.
I sympathize with remarks like this one, which I just saw flying through my Twitter feed:
Like, great. We're so glad that's your opinion. Now what?— crissle beyincé (@crissles) May 9, 2012
There's more to do.
Postscript: This announcement is already bringing out the silly on the Right. The Log Cabin Republicans, the oft-marginalized gay-rights advocacy group of the GOP, released a statement that they "appreciate that President Obama has finally come in line with leaders like Vice President Dick Cheney on this issue," and then blamed him in part for last night's Amendment 1 victory in North Carolina. Then this is the headline that was up at Fox News's Fox Nation website moments ago before they replaced it with "Obama Flip Flops on Gay Marriage":
If you see any more like this out there, #nerdland, let us know.