Never has the substantial progress in equal rights and treatment of LGBT people been more at risk than in this presidential contest. This election presents a choice between starkly opposing futures.
Barack Obama is a leader of undeniable accomplishment, vision, and integrity on LGBT rights. His opponent Mitt Romney betrays equality on numerous issues and aligns himself with a faction of the Republican Party that does not include equality among its declared ideals.
The Advocate’s last endorsement was decades ago, but the president’s statement of May 9, unequivocally in favor of marriage equality, along with his record on LGBT rights, has distinguished him for the ages and has made it clear that he is a transformational leader and our best choice for president.
By saying aloud, “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” in a televised interview on ABC, he has sparked conversation domestically and internationally. While he is our president at home, globally he’s an icon, a symbol of the promise of America, of the promise of equality. Obama may be the most prominent man on the planet ever, given the pervasiveness of modern media and his anomalous and historic nature as the first black American president; he is surely the single most recognizable head of state on the globe. By virtue of his unique position, his endorsement of marriage equality is not merely rhetoric. His words constitute action. On the very face of it, his statement is enormous, and has the power to move millions in a way that a statement from no other person could have.
Despite an abundance of hysterical whining to the contrary, Obama is not a far-left leader. His policies are moderate and only appear particularly progressive in contrast with the policies of his predecessor, policies that pandered to the worst instincts of the ultraconservative wing of the GOP. (Those instincts were evidenced by 13 state constitutional amendment banning marriage equality in 2004.) Obama’s newly declared position on marriage equality is not an extreme view, and it is consistent with the view of the majority of Americans, who believe that same-sex couples should have the right to marry.
The watershed moment has prompted a number of Democratic leaders, including Senate majority leader Harry Reid, House Democratic whip Steny Hoyer, and House assistant Democratic leader Jim Clyburn, to declare solidarity on a position that would have been untenable just a few short years ago. His support is having the effect of cementing that position in the mainstream of American politics. Obama’s statement has also given rise to echoes from pop-culture figures (Jay-Z, Will Smith) and religious leaders (including Otis Moss III, the pastor of Obama’s former Chicago church), all of whom have the power to shape attitudes in distinct and overlapping spheres of influence. His statements have also been part of the reinvigorated discussions surrounding marriage equality in the United Kingdom and Australia.
As a result of Obama’s declaration, which has followed similar declarations by Vice President Joe Biden, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and a number of sitting governors, senators, and representatives, we will never again see a Democratic presidential nominee emerge from the primary system with an anti-equality stance. That position would appear too backward to have legitimacy in the 21st century. Any candidate of either party who rejects the full equality of LGBTs will be asked to account for his or her view that we are damaged or inferior, and to explain why rights should be afforded to some but not all American citizens.